Posted by Bonita
Santa certainly has been very good to me this year, with the addition of a new toy to add to our collection of kitchen gadgets. After yearning for one for a good couple of months, we finally got one: a KitchenAid Professional 600 stand-mixer. The evening (or should I say morning) I returned home, I was flipping through the flyers and saw the ad for the mixer. Screaming in excitement at my mom, we roused my dad out of bed early in the morning, went out and got our lovely new mixer. What's great is that it came with a bonus pasta maker!
The angle of the photo is hard to see, but the machine is slightly bigger, definitely heavier (with the bigger and beastlier motor! :D) and a larger bowl to hold more dough (and to make my life much easier when I add in my dry ingredients--this way things are more likely to get into the bowl rather than all over my counter!). The one downfall is that with the larger motor, it makes for a noisier machine. But hey, I'd take the noise any day if it means that this can double the amount of cookies and knead even the most uncooperative dough imaginable.
With a new machine in hand, I decided to go ahead and make some bread. Went with a simple French Country Bread, since my dad really likes it. The machine kneaded it really nicely; I especially like the design of the new dough hook, since it's in the shape of a corkscrew. Personally, I think it makes for more efficient kneading, but then again, I could be bias!
I also decided to let the bread proof in these little baskets lined with a flour-dusted teatowel in order for the bread to hold its shape while it proofs. The method worked, and I got these gorgeous round loaves rather than flattened out ones. Still need to work on my slashing method though.... The loaves came out beautiful though, so I can't really complain much. Beautiful golden brown with a crispy exterior and a soft, chewy crumb...delicious!
Other baking endeavours these past two weeks included lots of cookies, including these lovely Hazelnut, Cinnamon, Cardamom and Raspberry Sandwich Cookies from Kate Zuckerman's book The Sweet Life. I really love the combination of hazelnuts and cinnamon; it's such a sexy and sensual combination with the incredible nuttiness of the hazelnuts and the warm spiciness of the cinnamon. It was no wonder then that I was dying to try this recipe for awhile. I absolutely adore this book; it's full of really interesting recipes with new combinations of different flavours to make for interesting desserts. Zuckerman really makes things easier by breaking down the recipes step by step, so even the most inexperienced bakers can achieve success in the kitchen. The cookies turned out really nice. The dough didn't give me too much trouble as was rolling it out and cutting the shapes except for a few expected cracks here and there. The nuttiness and spiciness of the cookies balanced really nice with the raspberry jam, and it had a really nice texture to it with the crunchiness of the nuts and raspberry seeds and the melt-in-your-mouth buttery cookie. I also tried this with blackberry jam, which made for an equally delightful experience!
Another cookbook recipe I tried out was the Bacon and Egg Pie from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess. I never really was a fan of Nigella until this year when I started watching her on the Food Network. I must admit, she definitely has an aura about her that really draws you in, and her simple, quicky, homey recipes are a delight when you actually come to appreciate them.
I don't bake pies very often because I find that pie dough is a pain to work with sometimes. If you don't get it right, you'll end up with a tough crust, a soggy mess or a crust that just won't roll because it's constantly cracking into a million little pieces. However, this dough was really easy to put together since I just basically threw all my ice-cold ingredients into a food processor and whizzed it around until it came together. I prepared that the night before, so all I had to do in the morning was fry off some pancetta and onions, beat the eggs and bake the pie. I added extra eggs to my pie and reduced the amount of pancetta.
I was surprised that my pie turned out as nice as it did. The crust was nice and flaky and held up nicely. The filling was also nice too, although I might mix it with a different kind of meat (perhaps ham?) next time to cut down on the amount of salt. However, a slice of this pie with some dressed green salads made for a simple but delicious New Year's lunch.