Photograph by Patricia
Before I start the summaries, I have a few announcements:
Happy Valentine's Day!
- Orin is not a man. Although I kept referring to her as "he," she is actually a "she." I did the same thing to Kim, when I invited her to join the group, but called her "Robert." I will try not to commit any more gender faux pas.
- Jim is now choosing the picture of the week, because he knows more about photography than I do, and it was making me unhappy to have to choose just one photo.
- According to the Alpha Bakers First Completely Scientific Poll, we will continue having a Catch-Up week about every three months. (That sounds like we've had other polls, but they weren't scientific. I just found the poll widget, so I'll probably be looking for other poll questions.)
Two people baked the Black and Blueberry Pie, and both were happy to have had the experience of the other Alpha Bakers to guide them. Michele, having read about the too-juicy pies that others experienced, increased the amount of cornstarch. This was a good idea. Replacing the lemon zest with lemon oil wasn't such a good idea, she said, because there was a bitter aftertaste. She also denied that the decorative cut-outs in her pie crust resembled the thumb and finger holes of a bowling ball, as her husband claimed. Finally, she loved the crust.
Jen did not love the crust. Although her berries were perfect, since she followed the collective wisdom of Rose and the Alpha bakers, her crust was "100% not flaky." Because of this lack of flakiness and general lack of cooperation of the pie dough, she and pie crust are "not friends yet." But I'm impressed that she included the word "yet" in that sentence, which I take to mean that she believes she and crust will one day be on better terms. As someone who sometimes vehemently curses pie dough while she is attempting to roll it out, I understand the "not friends" feeling. (Jen, if pie crust friended you on Facebook, would you accept?)
Although we've made a number of cookie recipes, only one person--Tony--used Catch-Up Week to do cookies. His were a variation of his previous variation on gingersnaps (the variation that included horseradish). I believe I mentioned Tony's horseradish cookies several times during the Midweek Roundup, and don't think he didn't notice! ("I think from our Weekly Round Up that week, Marie must have thought I had gone mad with spices.") This version contains horseradish powder or wasabi powder, Chinese five-spice powder, white pepper, and mace--along with the ginger, of course. After shaping the cookies, he pressed them in grated lemon zest. He highly recommends this cookie to any spice lovers out there.
Katya also made a sort of variation--Mango Bread with Mixed Nuts instead of Apricot Bread with Walnuts. She also added a little sourdough starter to her biga--otherwise it was pretty much the same as the original recipe. I have to say that Swedish and Mango don't seem to belong in the same sentence. Next time, she'll double or triple the recipe and use more rye flour. You should also read her blog for an interesting description of a Chicago librarians' convention. Did you know that librarians wear "colorful cardigans and cool tights"? I think it's in the job description?
Remember when we made panettone? And how Patricia did not like the looks of her biga (a "biga fail," she said). So she made it again. This time there was no failure at all, even though the final rise just about drove her crazy with its slowness. Still, if you look at the picture of the week, you'll agree that the final product justifies the bread's general tendency to move at a snail's pace.
Catherine had not yet made the Chocolate Cuddle cake, so she opted to try it this week. Her title: "Chocolate Heaven and Toffee Hell" pretty much tells her story. Her description of her caramel-making adventure sounds a little testy, so if you read it, you may think that Catherine is not as good-natured as her previous posts may have led you to believe. And she also throws some gratuitous insults at American dessert names. Sure, "shoo-fly pie" is not the most attractive name you've ever heard, but what about Spotted Dick? Anyway, all's well that ends well, and the "traumatic process turned into the most delicious caramel cream."
Jenn went all the way back to the Kouigns Amann, this time making them with pastry rings (well, technically, hash brown rings, but who cares?) Hash brown rings apparently lead to perfection in the Kouign Amann department--perfectly shaped, perfectly caramelized, perfectly delicious. And Jenn gets some kind of heavenly extra credit, I'm sure, for giving away 6 of her 8 Kouigns.
Glori did something a little different for Catch-Up Week--she wrote a tribute to Rose, starting with the love of baking bread which she got from The Bread Bible and ending with why she loves being an Alpha baker:
I feel that I have come a long way in my baking skills, but there is so much more to learn. Every week, I'm excited to read the recipe and see what new technique I will be learning. Oh sure, I might not like the final outcome as far as taste but if I learned something then it was worth the time and effort I put into it. While I do feel that I am becoming "fearless," I still won't stray from Rose's recipe, at least the first time around. But, by asking what would Rose do, trying my own variation on things won't be so scary. Thanks, Rose, for helping me become a more confident baker!Back to our regularly scheduled baking program next week--the Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache. As I mentioned last week, those with timid taste buds may think that even the minimal 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne in the ganache recipe is too much, so know your tasting audience.
Happy Valentine's Day!