Kit Bakes Everything: Rich Golden Bread

I made two loaves this afternoon and it’s already gone, so that’s something. One slight mishap that meant it wasn’t as risen as it could have been, so I’ll have to try it again sometime soonish, but it still came out delicious!

The main thing about this one is that it has multiple rises. Several multiple rises– there’s the first rise, then the shaping, then letting it puff for about 20 minutes or so, and then a full second rise. Enriched dough really needs all that rising, but it’s kind of a lengthy process, which is where the mishap comes in.

The second rise is supposed to take place in a cake or loaf pan, so that you don’t have to handle the dough a second time before rising– just brush with melted butter and pop into the oven. I got it all set up nicely, but so that we’d have bread around the dinner hour instead of an hour after I got home from a later than usual shift, I asked Math Dragon to do the brushing it with butter and putting it in the oven part. It didn’t occur to me to specify “bake it in the cake pans”, and it didn’t occur to him that I’d be using anything other than the baking sheets I’ve used for all the loaves of Rustic Bread I’ve been making… and so he transferred it after the second rise, which lost a lot of the rise.

However, even with that mishap and the loss of texture that necessarily accrues when you substitute all the eggs in a recipe, it tasted pretty delicious– not as fluffy as it could have been, but not close-textured either. It had more flavor than the other breads I’ve been making. Five out of the six people living here had sandwiches for dinner, since we had a lot of deli meat leftover from one of Math Dragon’s deli meat buying sprees (man takes his sandwiches seriously) and also a ridiculous number of homemade pickles leftover from an amateur catering project Chef did. The bread is now entirely gone.

I’ll have to make this one again. It’s not that much more work than the other one, and it’s clearly a hit. (Even better, maybe I can find a recipe for enriched bread in Bakewise, which I discovered today has delicious recipes which are much more straightforwardly written.)


Kit Bakes Everything: Georgian Bread and Crazy Cake

Sorry for disappearing on you, everyone! First I had a bad mental health week, and then my laptop was broken for a week, and then I was exhausted. I’m still exhausted, honestly, but the more I put off writing and keep baking, the more daunting writing up my backlog gets. I’m going to write up the one I did relatively recently while it’s fresh in my mind and and deal with my backlog later when I’m not exhausted.

There was a cooking spree! Kitty Tamer (one of my roommates) was sick, so Math Dragon and Bookhunter (more of my roommates) and I cooked dinner for her. We’d have cooked dinner for the rest of the house too, but everyone else was out.

(How many roommates do I have, you ask? Five: Chef, Kitty Tamer, Math Dragon, Bookhunter, and Tie-Dye. There are various significant others and former residents who also drop by on the regular; they’ll get Blog Nicknames if they become important.)

Math Dragon and Bookhunter did soup and sandwiches, while I did more baking. Much more baking– Georgian Bread and Crazy Cake from this cookbook, and scallion pancakes for an appetizer which are from one of my Korean cookbooks and thus not part of the project. (There is a scallion pancake recipe in How to Bake Everything. I will be doing it at some point. And probably doing a bonus comparison. Which gives me an idea for something to do after I eventually get through this cookbook– comparing recipes for the same thing across MULTIPLE cookbooks!)

Georgian Bread is fascinating. It’s basically a giant open-faced cheese turnover– you take a bread dough, spread cheese on it, roll up the sides, fill the middle with more cheese, and bake. You’re supposed to it it hot while the cheese is still liquid so you can dip the dough into the cheese; this did not happen because we weren’t great at timing our meals. One thing to note is that while the loaf of bread looks small when it’s at the rising stage, you will be rolling it out really thin, so there’s actually more of it than there seems to be. That said, if you’ve got very bread-loving people around, you might want to double the recipe.

Things I didn’t do: the recipe calls for breaking an egg over the top of that cheese and baking it until it’s just set, and then putting a tablespoon of butter cut up into small pieces over the top while it’s still hot. That just struck me as overkill, honestly; the thing’s already so rich! Why add more? I could barely eat it as it was.

Crazy Cake is weird, although at least some of that might be that we did the Baily’s Irish Cream version first and our bottle of Irish Cream was really old. It’s extremely fluffy, but as a cake that’s deliberately done without diary or eggs, it has little richness. Or at least, that’s the variation with the alcohol. When you do the variation that involves replacing all the water in the recipe with coffee, it’s significantly gooier. And also caffeinated, which I really don’t recommend in cake, especially if you have my congenital sensitivity to substances. (Turns out autism often means you don’t react normally to drugs! In my case, this means an extreme sensitivity to them.)

Our next trick is going to be trying it with Kahlua, on the theory that this will have the coffee flavor to bring out the chocolate flavor, alcohol to make it fluffy, and no caffeine to upset my brain and stomach. I will have to see how that actually turns out, but I am intensely curious.

Kit Bakes Everything: Chocolate-Sour Cream Pound Cake

It is possible to screw up cake such that your household won’t eat it, y’all! They were eating the Entemann’s someone brought home! A store bought cake! In preference to a homemade chocolate one!

In all fairness, if I could eat the store-bought one, I probably would have been too. I don’t know if it’s because I subbed Greek yogurt for the rest of the sour cream when we ran out or if it’s just the way these cakes are supposed to come out, but the texture was awful. I ate some of it because it was chocolate cake and I’ve been sick with the flu, but it was dense in a very bad way– heavy and muddy and just weird. I’m not sure what caused the problem, though I’d also be willing to go with “this is a cake texture some people prefer” or “this is the texture of a sour cream cake”.

It was probably some kind of mess-up in the execution, though, because looking over here at The Cake Blog‘s comparison pictures, that is not at all what my cake’s crumb looked like, though I don’t think that one was a pound cake either. Also, I don’t have a lot of experience baking with real dairy. Since my partner’s away visiting relatives I thought I’d give real butter and sour cream a shot.

One might also blame the oven, or the Bundt pan, or any number of variables that go into a cake. Or maybe pound cakes just shouldn’t be chocolate. I’m probably not going to try it again to figure it out, though; there are plenty of cake recipes still to go, and some that I’ve tested that everyone actually likes (not to mention scores of other cookbooks), so troubleshooting this at random is kind of a low priority– if I do enough with similar cake recipes that I start to have a targeted idea of what was wrong with this one, I might come back and give it another shot. But without the “double it so you can use a tube pan” this time!

Kit Bakes Everything: Devil’s Food Cake and Rustic Bread

Protip: look in all the cabinets before you decide you don’t have springform pans.

Which is to say, I made a layer cake! Only I didn’t find the springform pans, so it turned out very oddly because I baked them in differently-shaped regular pans and turned them out on top of each other. I’m not really sure what differentiates Devil’s Food cake from other types of chocolate cake, unless it’s the texture– this was unusually dense and moist. It was actually pretty tasty.

I learned how glazes work! And now I’m going to tell you all. The heart of a glaze seems to be that it mixes up liquid, goes onto the cake liquid, and then solidifies into what’s basically a hard sugar shell. So one of the things you need to do when you put it on is that if you want your glaze to be thicker across the cake is you need to wait for it to dry and put it on a second time, because if you try to dump all the glaze on at once it pools around the side of the pan– though they’re not like icing; there’s not necessarily a reason to put on a particularly thick layer. This doesn’t count as another recipe since it’s still a variant of the same Lemon Glaze recipe I was varying in my last post, but it’s something I’ve figured out.

One of my new roommates also cooks things. We will call him Chef for blog purposes. I think he may actually be a more technically accomplished baker than I am, which is interesting when you take into account that I consider myself a pretty good baker and he considers himself more of a cook than a baker. But he somehow gets a smooth top on his cake, and then carefully mixes up the icing and carefully frosts it and trims his cakes. Actually, the differences in our cooking styles may be summed up by some variant of the “Technician Versus Performer” thing on TVTropes– though not as intensely as the page will describe, since he does do creative cooking and I occasionally work on my technique. (Really, this entire blog series can be construed as an attempt to work on my technique.) But he’s been making souffles for days trying to get them exactly right before he does any bold experimenting with the recipe, while I tend to start at bold experimenting with the recipe and let any technique I learn grow out of that.

Anyway, there were two cakes in the household for a while, my enthusiastically glazed chocolate cakes and his much prettier beet cakes.

Rustic Bread was my foray into the yeast-bearing part of the book. I’ve now done this a couple of times, because my household is a very bread-loving place and my roommates are most enthusiastic consumers of it. I’m still not sure how “shape it into a boule” is actually supposed to work– it’s already in a boule shape when you put it to rise! Is there something else I should be doing to get it into a boule? It’s been baking up just fine…

I’ve also only made one attempt at the oven-safe skillet to make the oven full of steam thing, mostly because the oven here is terrible and if you put the cast iron thing in it never really gets up to temp. It’s not having that much effect on the crust, though filling the oven with steam is supposed to do… something… to the crust. I think it’s supposed to make it browner or crisper. I have also learned not to put things on the bottom shelf of the oven because they get brown very fast there. (Our oven is terrible!)

And yes, my roommates are getting Blog Nicknames. Mostly because as often as people apparently cook for each other in this apartment, the new roommates are likely to become regular cast members here.

Kit Bakes Everything: Honey-Spice Cake with Buttercream Icing and Gingerbread Part II

Hey guys! It’s actually been a while since I did the cooking I’m discussing here– I’ve been moving! I’m so very glad to have moved (there are TWO CATS in my new apartment!), but wow has it been exhausting and I’m still not unpacked yet. So I’m going to post here about cooking done a while ago.

First thing’s first: I love bundt pans! I get to make a fancy cake while putting almost no actual effort into cake decorating. I really need to get one of these for myself! (Though it did lead to a slightly overbaked cake because I’m not used to working with these things.) I did Honey-Spice cake, which is a pretty neat cake. It’s fairly dense and thick, because it calls for whole-wheat or rye. I used white whole wheat, and we also substituted some kind of dark beer for the coffee so as to have a caffeine-free cake. It was pretty tasty!

Since I had a bundt pan and had made a fancy cake, it occurred to me that I should also ice it, especially since I have a whole chapter of icing at the end that I’m going to have to do!

I went for the Not-Too-Sweet Honey Buttercream (a variant of Not-Too-Sweet Vanilla Buttercream), and I need to do more experimentation with icings, because it didn’t come out that well. It was grainy and it never really thickened, and it wasn’t sweet but it didn’t have any other flavor either, really. It was just kind of this… vaguely buttery thing.

I think maybe buttercream is one of those things where butter-versus-margarine actually matters. Though that my not be all of it, because of the next recipe. A few weeks after that cake (see? I’m behind on writing these up!), I got together with my metamour, who’s low-gluten but not totally gluten-free, and I decided to see how a low-gluten version of that cranberry gingerbread from New Year’s worked– remember I was speculating it would do well gluten-free? There’s gluten in my egg substitute, so it wasn’t completely gluten-free, but there were perhaps four tablespoons of flour in the entire cake. It came out kind of sandy–even in a cake there’s no true substitute for flour– but respectable. I bet you could use real eggs to make it a completely gluten-free cake and have it come out less sandy.

But I digress. Since I’d already done that recipe once and the goal is finishing the book, I wanted to do a new recipe to go with it… and cue the icing. The Lemon Glaze recipe has a number of variants, including a Cinnamon Glaze which the gingerbread recipe specifically calls out as being good with the gingerbread. So I made that, still with Earth Balance instead of butter, and it came out fine. The major difference between the two, actually, was that we’d run out of confectioner’s sugar when I was halfway through making the buttercream, and rather than powder more in the food processor I attempted to just use straight turbinado. For the cinnamon glaze, we powdered a whole bunch of sugar and it worked better.

So let this be a lesson to remember to powder your sugar for icing!


Arisia 2018 Con Report

I went to Arisia this weekend! Some of you may have even seen me.

We got there later than intended on Friday, and just about the only thing I did programming-wise was visit the Princess Bride fight that my partner was doing. Well, that and the neurodiversity meetup. Friday night is almost always mostly running around greeting friends and getting excited and wearing the stellar outfit that one can’t stand wearing for more than brief periods at a time because it’s uncomfortable– or at least, I would have been doing that, but I had this problem with my corsets. (Sidebar: there is nothing to make you freak out about your body like discovering you can’t fit your corsets. Mind you, one of these corsets was acquired when I was sixteen and one when I was 20 or 21, they’re both the same size, and I’m now 26, so perhaps freaking out about this isn’t really warranted, but.)

The fight was pretty neat. Really. I hang around with these people and watch them fight on a regular basis and it’s *still* pretty neat. They did not recreate the fight from the Princess Bride, but instead talked about and demonstrated techniques from the various swordmasters that were mentioned in the dialogue. I think the most interesting was probably the one that involved an elaborate diagram on the floor depicting places to step.

After that there was running around seeing friends and I went to the neurodiversity meetup, which was also neat. I got a matched set of buttons that I can swap out as needed: a green one that says “Socially awkward human desires conversation” and a red one with a stop sign that says “Non-Verbal, no interaction desired.”

On Saturday, “Edges of Community” was an awesome panel. It’s so fascinating to sit there and listen to people talk about not really belonging to communities they feel like they should be able to belong to. As a biromantic demisexual woman in a relationship with a man, I often feel isolated from the LGBT community (despite the acronym, bi people often aren’t really welcome there), so it was nice to get to listen to other people who have similar problems not fitting. (Most of the panelists were biracial and talked about that, but some of it is applicable to any community.)

“SFF Relationship Goals” wasn’t nearly as engaging, but that might just have been how out of it I was; I did not do nearly as well as I should have at meals over the weekend.

Somewhere in there was a costume panel, but I can’t remember which day that was. It wasn’t nearly so exciting– it was billed as “practical tips for beginning costumers” and what it actually turned out to be was “how to get over your nerves about trying costuming for the first time”. The problem I have isn’t nerves, it’s sewing skills!

On Sunday there were more panels. I think I went to the most actual con programming on Sunday– highlights of that include “Policing Diverse Creators” and the late-night sex panel which I was not intending to actually be at the con late enough to see, but as it turns out daytripping, and therefore sleeping in a real bed every night and not babysitting, works wonders for my energy levels. As does grapefruit. (It’s hard for me to find fruit I can eat, and every time I do add one I end up with a massive energy boost, which is just further evidence I have nutritional deficiencies. I’m working on it.) The sex panel is fuelled by audience questions written on notecards, and so it apparently various wildly in tone from year to year, depending on what people ask. This year it was mostly light and fun and funny, with occasional touches on heavier topics. Apparently in past years it’s been really heavy.

Other amusing con highlight: at the “Explicit Representation in SFF” panel, I had this moment of “representation I didn’t know I wanted”: dietary restrictions. I have a lot of dietary restrictions, and I hadn’t even realized until N. S. Dolkart mentioned it that I desperately wanted a book that reflects that experience– though I had a rather tortured metaphorical subplot in the first-draft of something I was working on in which the lead character can’t comfortably eat fae or mortal food because she’s part-Sidhe, which should maybe have been a hint. (Seriously, it was tortured— partially because I am well aware that you can’t be an action hero when you’re so dizzy from not being able to eat anything that you can’t stand upright for long, and here I was trying to write an action hero who suffers from something like my issues anyway.) I went up to Dolkart after the panel and was like “I need to read your book!” Bearing in mind that at that point I didn’t even really know what his book was about, just that it was some stripe of SFF. It’s one of the ones that has migrated to the top of the to-read pile, to be read just as soon as the giant pile of library books is back at the library.

I got the most wonderful corset jacket at the Cloak and Dagger sale! (And Partner was deathly bored, as both of his girlfriends got deeply absorbed into trying on corsets simultaneously. Isn’t polyamory fun?)

And I bought some art. More of the kittens-with-dragons art, because I love the whole kittens and dragons line, and some hand-knitted fingerless mittens. There was a beautiful necklace in the art show that had already been sold or I would have bought it– it was a skyscape with a big brass thing around it, and I kept looking at it and thinking “I would actually wear that jewelry”.

Goals for next year: get enough of my beaded-feather-jewelry done that I can put it in the art show.

As ever, I was baffled by the party-hopping, but that may just be because I end up standing in a corner awkwardly, even with my “Socially awkward human desires conversation” button on.

Weekend was fun!

Kit Bakes Everything: Double Chocolate Muffins and Chicken Pot Pie Cobbler

This seems to be the way to get me to actually post here, doesn’t it! We got whomped with a snowstorm, and in between hiding from my roommates (I, ah, don’t get on with my roommates) and reading, I managed to get into the kitchen long enough to do some baking. Posting here about it seems to be getting me to bake more, and baking more seems to get me to actually post here. Well, that’s a fun productivity feedback loop!

I started with Double-Chocolate Muffins. I think my turbinado sugar got left at my partner’s house, so I used what was left in the bag here and then some brown sugar, and I used semisweet chocolate chips instead of brown sugar. They came out pretty nice– they’re dense and chocolatey and tasty, especially right from the oven when the chocolate chips are still melty. It’s a pretty simple recipe to make, but muffins are supposed to be. You mix dry ingredients, you mix wet ingredients, you combine. And then you add extra liquid because you’re using an egg substitute. They didn’t poof like I picture muffins doing, but that may have been the lack of egg.

My coworkers thought they were great.

I now have a general curiosity about whether homemade muffins as a whole don’t poof. Is this because I’m using an egg substitute? Is this just a particularly dense recipe? Or is the poof with cap we usually associate with muffins a product of food additives?

I guess I’ll have to make more muffins to find out. How terrible for us all. (But seriously, there’s a whole bunch more muffin recipes in this book, all of which I will eventually get around to making.)

Next up was Chicken Pot Pie Cobbler. I’m not sure whether to count this for “Chicken Pot Pie” or “Chicken Cobbler with Corn and Chiles”. It’s listed as a variation under the cobbler, but it’s essentially a combination of both recipes: you make the filling from the Chicken Pot Pie and then you follow the cobbler recipe the rest of the way. I’ll probably count it for cobbler, since that was the broad technique and there are other interesting-looking variations under the chicken pot pie where there aren’t under the cobbler.

Anyway, the point of this project is to level up my baking skill, and that I am succeeding in. I cut up actual raw meat, y’all! (I know, that doesn’t seem like it’s a high-level skill, but I have wicked OCD.) This was easier than rolling out pie crust would have been, and it’s pretty tasty. It’s another one where I followed the recipe only in the general sense, since I can’t have carrots or onions. So I did it with broccoli, eggplant, and potatoes. Also I didn’t have thyme so I used herbs de Provence. (And really, Mark Bittman, who has fresh herbs lying around all the time? Who has the money to be constantly buying fresh herbs when no one ever uses one of those whole packages before they go bad? Why don’t all these recipes say “or X amount of dried herb,” since potency varies between fresh and dried? Not that I’m going to stick to the amount of seasoning the recipe says anyway, but still! Anyway, where were we?)

You cook all of the above in chicken broth on the stove and then once it’s cooked down you put in a casserole dish, put the biscuits on top, and bake. It came out a little thinner than I like my chicken glop, closer to a very thick soup with biscuits on top. I might put more flour in next time, or cook it down more on the stove. It thickened right up in the fridge overnight, though, and when reheated it was just about the right consistency. My day started with shoveling out my car, which I got clear right when I had to leave for work, so post-shoveling lunch was jerky and chocolate muffins eaten in the car. After work and then the trip home, it was lovely to come home to Real Food which could just be reheated with no actual effort involved.

Incidentally, I told my mother about all this baking– though not about the blog– and she asked if I had considered writing a cookbook. I pointed out that I bake by adding things until it looks right; I often end with no idea of the precise amount of half the ingredients. Also, I’m ostensibly doing all this from a cookbook.