What do you absolutely drool for when you think of a sweet treat or your favorite food? Are you willing to try new dishes or a baked good you’ve never tried before? Last summer, I began my foray into the adventure of baking and cooking authentic food. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a good cook in my own right and love making cookies but some other foods tried my patience and my skills.
Several years ago, I made cinnamon buns but they didn’t turn out too good. You could have gone to Canada to play hockey with those hard buns! I tried baking bread too but that worked out as well as the cinnamon buns. Why doesn’t bread rise, I asked myself after seeing my latest, and most dismal attempt.
So back to last summer. I decided I wanted to learn to make chile rellenos, a Mexican dish of poblano peppers stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese. Oh, might as well make some Mexican rice to go along with it. I found a recipe, heated up the frying oil to a toasty hot temp and off I went. They didn’t turn out too bad. They were edible, but the next time I made them, I made the batter thicker and eh voila! Chile rellenos became a popular dish at my house. (My spell checker is weirding out with all the Mexican words. Excuse me, while I give it a short talking too.) The rice turned out really well too, with thin-sliced onion, a can of tomato juice and saffron and cumin along with other spices.
I learned how to make Baklava, a very sweet treat made with phyllo dough, walnuts and honey. One baking dish worth will go a long way and satisfies the sweet tooth’s craving.
I taught myself to make Rocky Road Fudge, Key Lime Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie with home-made crust and Tamales, some filled with pork and others with chicken, and apple fritters. I learned to make pickled ginger to go along with sushi. Then I got very adventurous and decided to see if hoagie rolls were hard to make. I mean I didn’t want them hard as hockey pucks again. My husband, who makes delicious bread when he’s in the mood, taught me how to measure the water before I add in the yeast. So, presto! I learned one of the most basic skills for making bread - how to heat your water and proof the yeast. Those hoagie rolls turned out super - crunchy on the outside and light on the inside. Perfect!
Cinnamon buns, being the challenge they were, had been put on a back burner until I saw a recipe for a quick version, complete with brown sugar, margarine, cinnamon and raisins. I tried that version and it became an all around favorite. Then I thought, I’ve made bread a couple of times (remember heating the water to the right temperature is important), why not try yeast-raised cinnamon buns? They weren’t the nightmare they’d once been. The dough turned out easy to work with and what was best, was that my husband loved them! But I have one more baked good to conquer. Sourdough bread since I see some person from this household always making special trips to the local grocery to buy some. How hard can that be?
Oh, maybe very hard. I need sourdough starter. No problem. That’s the wonderful thing about the internet. There are recipes everywhere you care to surf. So I made sourdough starter. In case you’re wondering, it’s like yeast but it’s more like a batter that you have to treat like a pet (you have to feed it once a week) except that it lives in your fridge. Some folks, I learned, has sourdough starter back from the 1840s!
Okay, I’ve got the starter, now for the bread. It took three days to make. I am not kidding! It had to rise the first time for twelve hours until doubled in bulk. Then the second time, it rose overnight in the fridge. When I baked the loaf of bread, it was smallish but it tasted good. Now I’ve gotten smarter and more time efficient. I use yeast along with the starter and make bread in about four hours.
The joy of being able to bake and cook anything I want is liberating. The whole process, from thinking about what would taste good for dinner and the creation relaxes me in a way few other things can. Now don’t think I spend all day in the kitchen. No, I spend part of my day there and the rest, well, I spend in the dining room eating and enjoying life and planning/writing my next novel.
What is your favorite food?
My birthday is coming up early next month so as a birthday treat, and which has nothing to do with food, I’m giving away a free critique of the first 30 pages of a fantasy or romance (any genre) novel (normally a $100 USD value). The tenth (10th) person to email me from my website will receive a personalized reading and in-depth critique. Happy writing!