Cooking on your day off

Last year at this time I was baking pies. Lots of pies. I will be forever indebted to that summer of pies for teaching me the touch. Cutting fat into flour is a truly visceral skill. I learn things by repetition, so making 36 pies a day taught me just how far to go with pie dough before it gets tough. I love having that knowledge. The tendonitis that came along with it? Not so much.

This year I am occupied in a different manner, Rabelais requires no pies, but much contact with food culture. So when I get a day off, I like to flex my underutilized muscle and play in the kitchen. We won’t go into how ridiculous that can be on a lovely summer day, but I am an odd obsessive individual. Sometimes the garden calls, much weeding and thinning ensues. Sometimes the kitchen flirts. Yesterday it was hot and humid. Not that horrifying middle of August humidity, but sticky enough. Somehow I was not up for frying in my own sweat in the garden. So instead I baked. Yeah, I know, hot. And what did I start with? Tuiles. I know, insane.

Lemon Tuile recipe from Alice Medrichs upcoming book Pure Dessert from Artisan, 9/5/07. I love Alice Medrich. Queen of Sheba torte from Bittersweet, yum. So when I heard she had a new book coming out, had to get my sticky paws on an advance review copy. She is working with whole grains (so is Peter Reinhart with his Whole Grain Breads book, also 9/07, from Ten Speed Press ) and I already hear you saying, dense, chewy brick like-baked goods. No thanks, did that back in the 70’s. Pushing aside any preconceptions I was intrigued by buckwheat strawberry shortcake, whole wheat sables and kamut pound cake. I like the flavor of buckwheat, but in these shortcakes they add this subtle haunting sweetness that is hard to identify, but lovely. The whole wheat sables were, by far, my favorite recipe so far. They are made with both all purpose and whole wheat flours, butter, sugar and (a variation that I love) cocoa nibs. It is a really simple cookie, but the nutty flavor of the whole wheat was a wonderful surprise, and nothing dense or brick like about this pastry. Light, crunchy, nutty, buttery this one goes into the repertoire. Want to try the variation with hazelnuts too.

But I did start with those Tuiles didn’t I? Damn, wish I hadn’t mentioned them. Somehow I forgot the class where we did Tuiles at ICE. Or maybe I am just remembering with rose colored glasses. Well, tuiles on a dry day can be a pain in the ass. Got to bake them just enough so that they are pliable when they come out of the oven and yet crunchy when cool. I had all intentions to make little pastry cups which I was going to fill with Lemon Curd lightened with whipped cream. Um, yeah. Well, I couldn’t get the little buggers into the muffin tins without breaking. Wasn’t this easier in school? In my defense, I don’t think the humidity was helping. If I could get them in the right shape, they wouldn’t crisp up. Even the ones that I left flat were chewy. Not a bad flavor/texture profile, but not Tuiles. I even tried rolling them up into cigars, they unrolled. Sigh.
Did make the lemon curd, which I will lighten with whipped cream, but will scatter with fresh blueberries.

Cooking on my day off….

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