Thursday, February 02, 2006
Oscar Speech, or Buttering Up the Bakerina ;-)
I know I just started this blog, but I feel that I have already been remiss in giving proper thanks—and after all, it IS the Oscar season, so allow me a brief speech of gratitude? As is my way, I must start with an anecdote…
So I was in New York City over Columbus Day, and I was, as usual, trying to make it both a culturally and gastronomically edifying tour. One of the places on my must-visit list was the Bonté Patisserie on the Upper East Side. Before venturing out of my friend Tony’s apartment in what we affectionately call Dominican Harlem, I paused to Google the bakery to confirm its hours of operation. Unfortunately, one of my hits informed me that the Bonté Patisserie had closed, having lost its lease in some sort of coup orchestrated by neighboring store, Ann Taylor. Boo hiss. But the silver lining to this cloud was that one of my Google hits was for the wonderful website, Prepare to Meet Your Bakerina, and I have been a faithful reader of her delicious prose ever since! And though it has never been my fortune to meet the Bakerina in real life, I still consider her a kind of mentor, both in baking and blogging. In reading her posts (and others as well, such as that of the wise kitchen Mage and also, the witty stylings of Anapestic), I was inspired to create a blog of my very own.
Moreover, I must also thank the Bakerina for introducing me to the most excellent baking primer, The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard (Wolfgang Puck’s pastry chef at Spago). I love this book not only because Yard is so precise and descriptive that it’s hard to fail (I successfully made brioche on my first attempt!), but because of the innovative structure of the book. She disregards typical chapter categorization such as cakes, cookies, pies and tarts, etc. and instead organizes recipes by family trees, explaining how many related items descend from the same master recipe and vary only in the proportion of ingredients or the techniques of preparation. For example, there is the master recipe for brioche, but if you cut back on the butter, you might have challah; add more, and you could have panettone. Fascinating stuff! Indeed, between the Bakerina’s trusty rice bread and her explorations with cookies of Dutch origin and then the Yard book, I was a baking fool over winter break! It may also be a factor that I lost my very much-loved mother right after Thanksgiving, and I threw myself into a self-taught pastry workshop as a way to keep myself busy and get through Christmas and New Year’s. In fact, one day, I may write a self-help book entitled, Grieving through Butter-Filled Doughs. Tee hee.
In the meantime, let me share some pictures (from my crap camera--sorry!) of a couple of my recent culinary projects. After great success in producing three gorgeous loaves of Yard's pumpkin brioche (though like the Bakerina, I swapped out sweet potato mash for the pumpkin purée), I was feeling very emboldened. So I backtracked to the master brioche recipe--an even richer dough--from which I made one large brioche loaf and a dozen of the most SINFUL sticky buns that it has ever been my guilty pleasure to consume. And though my camera does them no justice, I can report that they were tender, rich and buttery inside with a crispy exterior shellacked with a brown sugar and honey glaze and topped with both walnuts and pecans (doubling the amount of nuts that the recipe called for, naturally!). And before you deluge me, YES, I will post the recipe for those who upon seeing the glorious buns must have them or die trying! Because just as the Bakerina has enriched my baking repertoire, I feel it is my duty now to "pay it forward" to others of like mind and culinary will. :-)