Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Comfort zone

We all have a comfort zone. Everyone has things they are comfortable with... and things they...well, just would rather avoid if possible. And i'm easily guilty of that. I definitely have things i'm not comfortable with, and most of the time I try and get out of doing them if possible.

Recently though, I felt like I needed to try something different. For some reason I really wanted to try something I hadn't really gotten into. I've cooked a lot of different things, but one realm i've never really decided to venture into was one of yeast and flour. Yes, that's right. The weak spot of many a chef - baking. I for some reason couldn't get it out of my head, and really felt like after so long it was time for a rematch.

What? Expecting something else? Trust me. In the past, dough and myself have never gotten along. Like oil and water. Like steak and marshmallows. Like Jon and Kate. I had always left dealings with my yeasty nemesis to bakers and the pastry chefs, sticking to simpler things people love to label as 'chef desserts'.

So I decide to pull an all-nighter. Staying at the restaurant after hours, free of distraction, I had a few things I wanted to try, and now had the space to try it in (my kitchen at home is decent enough, but my plan was for a few different things, and my oven just wasn't big enough at HQ).

So I started with my sponges and starters. Not too hard, and for the most part pretty easy. The worst part was waiting for dough to rise and the yeast to do it's business after the dough had been brought together. So in oiled metal bowls, covered in wrap, I waited for everything to proof.

Now, old memories of things just not rising of course were running through my head. But not to worry, everything seemed to be working out just fine.

What was I working on? Well first, I wanted to do a nice Cinnamon raisin and walnut bread with a nice cinn/sugar swirl going through it. Thought it would be great for toast in the morning, and just a great all around snack bread. So after kneading in all of the walnuts and raisins, and adding the cin/sugar mixture as I rolled the loaves, I ended up with 4 nice loaves, proofing once again, ready to be tossed into the oven.

With some bread underway, I remembered I had promised the waitstaff cinnamon buns for when they came in to open in the morning. Well, cinnamon buns were one of the few sweet things I eat in the morning, so I was more than happy to give it a shot.

While I was waiting for my buns to rise, some of the other things I had been working on finished, one of which were my 4 nice loaves of bread. Pretty nice, and trust me, were pretty tasty in the morning toasted with butter.

Here come the cinnamon rolls....finished with some rum icing.

These two things weren't everything that I was working on that night. I baked some nice Anadama bread, which smells in-freaking-credible due to the molasses it's made with. Also some white bread, rye bread, and a few other little odds and ends. But me being me, forgot to take pictures of most of that. Oopsie. Guess I was having too much fun?

I did have a lot of fun staying up all night and baking. I did everything by hand, and tried a lot of things that I hadn't tried before (brioche can be a pain, but man do I love that stuff!).

Now, if you haven't realized by now, the whole point of this isn't how to bake things, or how awesome my stuff came out (although it all came out really well if I do say so myself), the point of my long winded paragraphs and horrible angles on pictures was to step out of that comfort zome once in a while we all tend to stay in. You can't be afraid trying things, trying different things, especially when it comes to food. And who knows, maybe you'll learn a thing or two along the way.

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