Breaking Bread

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Sitting down with some crusty bread and a glass of red wine is high on my list of things that center me. There is something satisfying about ripping the bread and topping with a wee bit of butter while sipping on a hearty class of vino. More…

Sitting down with some crusty bread and a glass of red wine is high on my list of things that center me. There is something satisfying about ripping the bread and topping with a wee bit of butter while sipping on a hearty class of vino.

Given how I feel about bread, I took Unit 21: Basics Baking & Bread very seriously. This unit had a massive amount of information to cover. To be honest, it could be broken up in to several units. And to be even more honest, if you look at the next several units including baking basics, bread, pastry, and chocolate, they look like the start of a really good Pastry course all on its own.

There were no graded assignments but I did remember to take some pictures of one of the practice recipes–an épi–which is a loaf of bread that has been specifically shaped to represent a stalk of wheat. Again, the ingredients were simple, the process enjoyable, and the results satisfying.

This bread was so much fun to make.

This bread was so much fun to make.

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A single grain of rice can tip the scale.

riceSo you can only imagine what a whole unit on rice and grains can do! Unit 14 turned out to be another enlightening chapter in my culinary, dare I say, journey. I grew up on rice. I am not sure which came first, but the three things I can not remember not knowing how to make are pound cake, tea, and rice. And to this day, I love all three. But, and this is an enormous but, I now know a better way to cook rice. No more stove-top absorption method for me. Whether I am making simple rice or pilaf, it now gets popped in the oven to finish cooking. No more uneven cooking or burnt bottom. It just comes to down to simplicity for me. I can then focus on the other parts of the meal knowing that the rice will be perfect. More…
So you can only imagine what a whole unit on rice and grains can do! Unit 14 turned out to be another enlightening chapter in my culinary, dare I say, journey. I grew up on rice. I am not sure which came first, but the three things I can not remember not knowing how to make are pound cake, tea, and rice. And to this day, I love all three. But, and this is an enormous but, I now know a better way to cook rice. No more stove-top absorption method for me. Whether I am making simple rice or pilaf, it now gets popped in the oven to finish cooking. No more uneven cooking or burnt bottom. It just comes to down to simplicity for me. I can then focus on the other parts of the meal knowing that the rice will be perfect.

In addition to re-learning how to cook my rice to perfection, I also picked up some tips on cooking grains and polenta–both of which are new comers to my meals in comparison to rice. There was a graded assignment on risotto which always seems to get the best of chefs on TV, and it turns out, it also got the best of this would-be chef. But as per the course, my instructor’s comments were constructive and beneficial.

I chose to make the pancetta, leek, and asparagus risotto. I started by par-boiling my asparagus so that I could add it at the end. I also chose to cook the pancetta to a crisp and add at the same time as the veg for its textural interest. I started warming up the stock at this point as well. I sweated the leeks and thyme in olive oil, added a bit of hot stock to finish the softening process. I then added the risotto and cooked it at a higher heat to slightly toast the grain. I then added the garlic and deglazed the pan with the white wine until syrupy. At that point, it was time to start adding the stock; ladle by ladle. In the end, I added a little over 5 cups of stock so I was glad that I had heated up extra. The process is a bit time consuming, but well worth the results.

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I really like risotto, but I am not a bit fan of most cheese. In the past, many restaurants and recipes call for cheese. I am starting to think that they just trying to disguise the fact that they rushed the risotto. I was patient with it, adding one ladle at time, and the risotto came out creamy and rich with no additions of cheese or oil. The leeks added a subtle sweetness and the asparagus provided some color and texture along with the pancetta balancing out the dish with a with a slight saltiness.

While this dish was delicious, the risotto could have been looser which would have made it spread on the plate a bit more.

While this dish was delicious, the risotto could have been looser which would have made it spread on the plate a bit more.