Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Martha Stewart's in Da HOUSE!

So I made a few New Year's Resolutions this year, and they are all somewhat related:

1) Cook more at home... no more restaurant whoring. (This resolution has more to do with the fact that we are broke and going broker by the minute than it does with me wanting to cook).
2) Learn to bake. I mean REALLY learn to bake. No faking it or being a poser. (This resolution is evenly split between me wanting to cook and me wanting to eat baked goods).
3) Don't make any more New Year's Resolutions. (This one ensures I'll break it right away).

So obviously, I failed miserably at resolution number 3. So let's focus on 1 and 2.

I have actually done quite well with the first one. It took me the first week of the year to get my kitchen back in shape after the holidays and restock the fridge and pantry. This week, though, I have to say, I'm really doing it. I've only eaten out once for lunch (and that was to see my former boss, the hero. He paid, too, since it was kind of a business lunch... but that's all I will say about that). We've eaten at home every day since Sunday... and really since Saturday if you include Papa John's as "home." I haven't been so good about breakfast... but I'm working on it. And breakfast is the cheapest meal if you really need to eat out. If I stick to this plan, we will easily save between $35 and $100 a week, depending on how much we ate out in a given week. I shudder to think that I've just been throwing that money at restaurants for this long. Especially since I really do like to cook!

For resolution number two, I decided I would shop for baking cookbooks that claim to be educational and take you through all kinds of baking... from biscuits to cakes. However, before I really shopped around, I mentioned to my mother-in-law that the new Martha Stewart Baking Handbook looked really good. I had only really glanced at it, but as she is a wonderful mother-in-law, she bought it for me for Christmas. And what do you know?! It actually takes you through all kinds of baking... from biscuits to cakes! Woo hoo!

So on Sunday, I started at the very beginning. Martha does make me laugh, I must say. When leading into her biscuit recipes, she says something like "The best thing about making biscuits is that you often have everything you need right in your kitchen. You don't need to buy special ingredients!" Hooray! Then I get to the ingredient list for baking powder biscuits... the first in the book.

Flour, salt, baking power, salt, unsalted butter... yadda yadda... heavy cream.

What? Heavy cream? And not just a little heavy cream. TWO CUPS plus extra for GENEROUSLY brushing the tops of the biscuits. Now, I ask you (and I already asked Cathy, who bakes a LOT), how many of you actually often have heavy cream on hand? And if you do, I don't believe you.

Anyway, I bought the heavy cream (only two cups... screw the extra for brushing... I don't need this experiment to make everyone in my household six feet wide). And I made the biscuits. Believe it or not, I have never before made biscuits from scratch... especially the kind you actually cut out. I have made drop biscuits from various mixes, but never from scratch. I don't even have a biscuit cutter (why would I?) So I used a cookie/pastry cutter. It was round, but it had scalloped edges, so I had VERY fancy biscuits.

So I was nervous... I mean... as long as I have never made biscuits, I haven't screwed them up. But I put my faith in Martha, and it paid off. They were quite tasty. And really, how could they not be with two sticks of butter and two cups of heavy cream in them? Martha isn't known for her low-fat cooking after all.

Unfortunately, the recipe makes like 20 biscuits, and between the three of us (Athena liked them too), we ate maybe six. And of course my wonderful husband made a crack about how late breakfast was (it was ready at 10:15, which isn't bad considering we didn't even wake up until 8:45). But I just told him to eat his handmade biscuits and shut up. :-)

So my baking experiment is also off and running. I believe I will make a quick bread next... like banana bread. I have actually made banana bread before, but I'm interested to see how Martha does it. I predict butter, shortening and heavy cream... but it's just a hunch. Oh, and perhaps a banana or two.


Jason said...

Alton Brown's "I'm Just Here For More Food - Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking" will teach you a lot more than Martha can. You're a librarian, check it out.

Chris said...

To be fair, my "crack" about the time was that the biscuits were technically brunch.

Brant said...

next time we're in town, we'll do a cooking lesson or two... :)

eaf said...

Thanks for the book suggestion, Jason, but I really want to use a book I can have long term, and I'm not buying any more cookbooks (at least for now). Martha wouldn't have been my chosen professor, but my goal was a little more complicated than just "learn to bake," and Martha will meet that goal I think. I do understand that some of her recipes will not be realistic. :-) Alton Brown is good, though...

Amy said...

Actually, I have a HUGE Costco size carton of heavy cream in my fridge. I bought it to make truffles at Christmas. Which I didn't make. So now I really need to hurry up and make ice cream.

And you don't need a biscuit cutter. Cookie cutter works fine. So does a glass, or an empty tin can. You're brave starting with Martha to teach you everything.

eaf said...

Brave or stupid... the jury is still out. :-)

And if you can't use all the cream for the ice cream, I have a great biscuit recipe I could send you... :-)

Cathy said...

I've got all three of Alton's books. (two of them are even autographed) We also have his first set of DVD's. (Kevin bought those.) If you eventually want to borrow anything, let me know.

Personally, I think the recipes in his cooking book are better than the ones in his baking book. However, the science nerd in me loves knowing how all this stuff works.