Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oh sweet mama........

......... was the sentiment my girls echoed nearly in unison when they tasted the fruits of their kitchen labors on Thursday night.

Confession:  I don't enjoy baking.

Worse confession:  Baking with my children drives me nuts.

I know, that sounds crazy.  How can any mom not enjoy baking with her kids?  After all, those moms on the Nestle commercials NEVER care when their kids spill a carton of eggs on the floor or accidently smear chocolate on the curtains.  I however, get frazzled.  The minute a bowl is out and a spoon is in my hand, there are 5 little people lined up and eager to help. (that's 10 extra "helping" hands.  Have you ever had to work with 10 extra hands, all in the same bowl? It'  I think I could probably be making anchovie and mustard bagels, and they would be excited to help.  I don't mind cooking with the kids, but I also find cooking to be a bit more forgiving than baking. (unless of course Nahshon is my sous chef.... we once made spaghetti sauce together, and I turned my back on him for 30 seconds to drain to pasta.  When I returned, the sauce was frothy and bubbling.  I still have no idea what he did that night, but I keep my eyes on him at ALL TIMES when he is in the kitchen now)  Anyhow, I strongly believe all children should leave home knowing how to care for themselves, so I bite the bullet, take my prozac (kidding! Although sometimes I wish...), grab my spoon and teach. Our last two baking projects though turned out delightful and delicious.  So much so, that we can't wait to make them again.

As most teachers, parents, and students can tell you, there is a mid year funk that happens sometime after Christmas.  The excitement of the holidays is past, the weather is gross, and everyone is just sort of burnt out- regardless if you home, public, or private school.  I think we've finally sprung out of our funk around here, and I wanted to do something new and special to keep the momentum going: cooking school!  I decided to spend a day in the kitchen with the kids, cooking, baking, learning knife safety, kitchen hygiene, properties of yeast, nutrition, how to follow a recipe, and anything else that came up.  We had a meal plan, but had to be scrapped at the last minute due to circumstances beyond my control. (*cough**Jeremy**cough*)  So, I searched the kitchen and decided on an Italian feast instead.  The menu: Italian herb and feta focaccia bread, fresh made marinara over pene pasta, and orange shortbread cookies.

The feast was delicious, but the focaccia bread was, oh my goodness, so very very good.  For me baking bread usually means throwing something together in the bread machine and coming back four hours later to savor the goodness.  This time however, we made it by hand, which is something I haven't done since I was a child. (I don't count banana or apple bread in this either, since that is about the same effort as baking cookies. Less actually)  It was so delightful, and surprisingly easy despite having to start over once because of something Nahshon did. (I WAS watching him, he's just so darn tiny and fast sometimes!)  I used two different recipes to guide me through the bread.  One was from this cookbook I have:
The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
By Thunder Bay Press

The other was from here:

  • easy focaccia bread

  • For the top on ours, I sprinkled feta on one half, and coarse sea salt on the other.  Both sides were equally scrumptious, and we're planning to make it again tomorrow.  For the orange shortbread cookies, Genna grated fresh orange peel, and hand squeezed some satsumas we had in the fridge.  We put a bit of the squeezed juice into the dough, and used the rest the make a glaze with powdered sugar.  The cookies were very tasty, but are not the other baking project I was talking about when I said we made two that were wonderful.  The other project was a cake.  (the one I mentioned before Easter)  I decided I was going to bake a carrot cake for Easter, and wanting to improve upon my baking skills, I decided I was going to do it from scratch.  What you must know is that the last time I baked a cake from scratch was high school cooking class, and I've never made a two layer cake before, not even from a box.  I used a recipe found in this cookbook:

    Goodness Gracious: Recipes for Good Food and Gracious Living
    By Roxie Kelley and friends

    As silly as it may seem, I was rather nervous about making this cake.  I even had Jeremy pick up a box mix at the store in case mine ended in disaster.  I kept imagining it would be burnt around the outside but undercooked in the middle, that it would break apart when trying to stack the layers, the frosting would end up with clumps of butter and sugar that didn't get mixed in completely, and the entire thing would be riddled with flecks of crumbs all over that screamed of my inexperience.  I can happily report though, none of that happened!  The cake turned out great, and although a bit boring as far as decorating goes, there wasn't a wayward crumb in sight!

    All of this combined with a new found love of  The Pioneer Woman and Genna's obsession with all things Julia Child, we may have the start of a revolution!  A savory, decadant revolution at that!

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