Flour By Any Other Name: Baking the Way Into Comfort in 2012

Christmas was a success: Her Royal Marquise India Le Yorkie Poo deigns to lie in her new bed. After two weeks on Prince Edward Island, I was quite happy to return to the safety and quiet of Toronto, which only goes to show that home becomes the space you end up creating for yourself and not a specific place. Still, it was wonderful to spend time with my family and friends at a pace that I seldom can afford here in the metropolis.

As far as my health went over the sugary holidays, I only managed to gain a single pound (which will be gone by tomorrow) much to the thanks of the stomach flu my mom gave me and which I am still not over. Since back to the city, I did manage to get back on the bicycle this afternoon while V. baked up a storm with both a collection of yummy blueberry muffins and a Vienna-style raisin cake. I hate to admit having eaten 5 muffins…India helped.

Baked goods are nice to have on hand. The challenge is to ensure one does not eat all of everything and then promptly explode. At the same time, to shun homemade baking in an age of eating from the box feels like a foolish choice. Yes, there is butter, flour and sugar galore in the cakes, but compared to the processed goods we eagerly shovel into ourselves, I will take my chances with these blueberry muffins over the Starbucks “lo-fat” mound of oily muck.

The recipes that V. tried at my behest were from Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker, and so far I have enjoyed the quality of the recipes.  I picked the copy up at the Charlottetown Winners, when I was buying dog toys for the bad dogs, and only paid a mere $12.99 for the book. I would have picked up a few other books, but as it was I struggled for 30 minutes to get my bag from the Toronto Island Airport to home.

I do love well-written cookbooks, and over the past three years I have done my best to collect a small, but comprehensive library of books to peruse when I want to look at styles of cookery, photography or even just read how a certain chef might approach hand made pasta or salmon. While the Internet can provide an almost limitless collection of recipes, what it does not provide is an approach that will lead a chef to understanding and improvement. For that, I firmly believe that classic texts like The Joy of Cooking and the Larousse Gastronomique need to be at the foundation of every aspiring chef’s learning. As your library develops you can branch out to pick up the texts that inspire you to pick up a pan. Personally, I seldom use the recipes in the books, but rather use them as a source of inspiration.

My favourite books on cookery over the past few years have been Thomas Keller’s first two texts [Bouchon and The French Laundry], Au Pied du Cochon by Martin Picard, and Donna Hay’s Modern Classics series. Throw in a bit of Batali, Jamie Oliver, Morimoto and maybe even a book on New Orleans desserts and we are in business. What I am not interested in are those awful and trendy books by “celebrity chefs” who do not even have real restaurants – Rachel Ray, Guy Fieri, The LooneySpoons girls or that Skinny Bitch person. Who wants a book with Skinny Bitch in their kitchen: a place of art, comfort and alchemy? Leave the skinny bitches to their skinny latte, and pick up the pie plate for heaven’s sake.

The final shot of the blog is of a veal t-bone steak. V. and I hit the Cheese Boutique yesterday, and along with the truffle hunter sausages and a tonne of specialty items we took home one of these pieces of meat because it seemed like an odd man out cut – an opportunity to cook up a 1960s retro-style plate of simplicity. I am not a superfan of any type of meat that is based on animal youth, but then again I am a superfan of tough cuts that can be braised into submission. Overall, it was a nice cut, but I think that I will leave the t-bones to the old cows.

Finally, I am still working to learn how to use the Canon 50mm f.1.2 L lens at its optimal capacity. This is one tricky lens due to its sliver of focus. Still, my condo has such dark lighting, I am just happy to be able to shoot anything handheld. Back to the grind tomorrow, but the year is already looking up: the CRA just approved a fix for a tax mistake my third-party management company made concerning RRSPs last year. Nothing better than to begin the year on a clean slate with the Tax Man.

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