Weekend cooking/baking - want to tackle something new.
So, DH is travelling over the weekend, and I thought it would be a good time to tackle a cooking challenge that I've not tried before. I'm not much of a non-cake/cookie baker - so am thinking about croissants or bread. In the distant past, I've made foccacia and brioche, with varying degrees of success. It's cold here, and I'm a little worried about getting yeast to rise ... but maybe my gas oven would do the trick?
Another thought that arose as I write this is to try a Scandanavian sweet bread of some kind, with cardamom (which I constantly crave - the cardamom that is - sometimes I just go and smell the open tin - strange, yes).
So - if you had a weekend w/ nothing to do - what kind of cooking projects would you suggest trying for the first time?
Edit: I live in Manhattan - so safe to assume I could get any ingredient.
Breads should proof just fine on top of your fridge (if that gets warm from the motor), in the oven with just the light on (if you have a bulb in there) or under any bare lightbulb, or heck, on top of your computer.
I usually go with cinnamon rolls (sticky buns) when I get the urge to bake and a large chunk of time. Bierrocks are also nice to have in the freezer for dinner. But I really can't argue with croissants. :)
I would make croissants, they are so yummy homemade and very satisfying to make. If you time the rises right, you could have a relaxing brunch with lots of coffee on Sunday morning. I would also buy some good quality chocolate, slice it into sticks and make some pain au chocolat with some of them. You can also roll some of them and freeze them before they rise for the last time. Take them out the night before you want them and bake them the next morning. Yum.
I say definitely go for the croissants! I always want to make them, but usually for some event or something, and get too busy. If not croissants, go for something like cinnamon rolls because there are lots of steps, and you can do them at leisure, and they freeze well, so you can freeze them in batches for breakfast or the holidays.
I recently made the Sweet Potato Rolls with Dried Tart Cherries and Cadamom recipe from epicurious and it sounds like what you might be looking for:
You roll them into croissant shapes, IMHO they are more of a sweet bread than a dinner roll and they contain cardamom. They are much easier to make than real croissants, because there is no layering of the butter. You don't taste the sweet potatoes but it makes for a tender crumb and a pale golden color. I used golden raisins instead of cherries and liked that. They kept for several days and were good plain or with jam.
To remedy a cold kitchen, I also do what librarian suggested... turning my oven on early to heat up the kitchen. Otherwise I put the bowl on top of my fridge which is always fairly warm.
Since winter here can easily get into the -40 range here, my kitchen is sometimes too cold to get a good rise from yeast. I've found that if I bake a quick batch of cookies (about a dozen) right before I start making bread, my kitchen warms right up. Also, I put plastic wrap over the top of the bowl instead of a towel to keep the heat in.
I struggled with croissants, it took me several attempts to get it flaky and light enough. It could just be me. If you're up to the challenge, go for it. I found the richer breads - brioche, challah - easier. Focaccia is fun, much like pizza IMO, not as tricky as some yeast breads. Sorry, can't help with Scandinavian breads, never tried them. Just about all the cardamom I use goes into Indian dishes.
As for new things to try, I'm about to launch into claypot cooking. No real idea why, it just appeals to me. So tomorrow I'm going to look for a pot as a start. Then I have several recipes to try - Chinese claypot rice with pork/chicken/sausage, Vietnamese caramel pork/fish.
I'm experimenting with different ways to cook beans. I'm thinking of trying a recipe for limas from Joy of Cooking which has them baked with a mix of molasses, chili and bacon. I probably will make a batch of bbq beans using some of the bbq sauce I made a couple of weeks ago, good and spicy.
I made merguez for the first time last weekend. It turned out to be very tasty. So I'm planning a Moroccan couscous some time with root vegetables, merguez and perhaps some grilled chicken. That's probably next weekend.
I'm also considering a pork with guajillos recipe from Bayless' Mexico Every Day. It sounded very appealing and for once I have all the ingredients I need. Mexican cooking is also a fairly new adventure for me.
As you can probably tell, my cooking is very eclectic. I do a lot of cooking over weekends and holidays so we can eat well during the week when I get home too late to cook.
If you do make croissants, be careful about proofing them in your oven. If it gets even the faintest bit too hot in there, the butter will weep out of the croissants. I've even tried putting a cup of hot water in an unheated oven with them and they've still leaked out their butter.
Lots of good yeast bread recipes here:
Sometimes when it is coolish and we want the bread to have a good rise. We bring a 4 qt. glass measuring cup full of water to a rolling boil in out microwave and let it boil a bit. Then remove and place the dough in the proofing bowl in the now warmed and moist microwave. Shut the door and leave it alone. I have not had much difficulty with SAF Rapid Rise yeast. It is worth looking for. We buy big packages.
I'm cooking all day today and have turned out country ham spread with bourbon...great stuff for cocktail nibbles. I'll be making more of that and soon. Cranberries and quinces as a compote, I have a chicken all salted and out on my porch table drying under the ceiling fan for this evenings supper which will have some fresh broccoli and awendaw spoonbread. At the moment I am assembling countless pumpkin tortolloni for a dinner we are going to tomorrow. Out side of a quick run to the store this AM for a few supplies I have been facing the stove all day. Not complaining but it is easy to do and just get lost in it.
Good luck with the weeked's baking.
But Indian food freezes so well - just divide it into smaller containers. It's been 12 years since I've had a free weekend, so I envy you, but if I had your time, I'd make batches of puff pastry (and freeze the extra) for topping chicken pot pies, apple cranberry turnovers, Wellington (brioche is too heavy IMO), etc. Have fun!