Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Philosophy of Baking

So yesterday our Kitchen Aid mixer came. Servia and I decided that would be our early Christmas present and we could use it for some holiday baking. We searched around for a while and found a refurbished one on the Kitchen Aid website. Excited to try it out, we made two batches of cookie dough last night.

The Kitchen Aid is shockingly efficient. In about 30 seconds it can cream butter and sugar to a consistency that it would take me at least 10 minutes to achieve. It was amazing.
Creamed Butter and Sugar
The one thing that bothers me is that with this machine baking is a streamlined process. Although I certainly sample the fruits of my baking, I started baking in order to relieve stress. Baking is very physical-- creaming butter or kneading bread requires strength and skill. Even though I have been remiss on hitting the gym (and I primarily do cardio when I have), I have little muscles in my arms from kneading bread dough. Without the physicality of baking, it turns the stress relief from stress baking to stress eating, which can be very dangerous. So is this appliance going to ruin how I bake?

No. In reality, the efficiency can be extremely helpful. I often have to make a dessert for my final class of a session, etc when I'm stressed and have other things to do. Furthermore, one of the batches of cookies I made last night are my dark chocolate shortbread cookies. These cookies are a big hit, but they are actually more frustrating to bake than I would like. The dough is extremely dry and very hard to combine to the correct consistency. The Kitchen Aid made them without the frustration and they were suddenly both simple and delicious.

Thus, I have (quickly) made peace with the mini-factory in the kitchen. I will still probably make almost all of my bread by hand (with the exception of trying this amazing loaf of deliciousness that I've been eying for ages). However, over the holidays when efficiency is paramount, I have a feeling the new Kitchen Aid and I will become fast friends.


  1. Congrats! What color is it? I've been loving mine, but I think the mechanism needs recalibrating since I need to scrape down the bowl a little too often. I love the luxury of walking around wile it's working.
    I somehow missed your dark chocolate cookies, I want to try something like that with the extra dark chocolate color, thanks for the tip on the cocoa, I'm going to look for it.
    I'm planning to make a foray into breadland soon...Grant loves this whole grain nut and seed bread that he used to get at the farmer's market in CA, and now has found a version here made at a farm from their own whole wheat. I figure since it's so dense I can't really go wrong, as long as I find a decent recipe. Let me know if you have something like that in any of your books...with whole grains, nuts, seeds.
    I can't wait to see what you come up with using your mixer!

  2. It's white, because that's what they had. I like it too, mostly because it allows me to cream butter and sugar while my arms are still sore from pilates. lol.

    In terms of a seeded whole grain bread, I have a couple of ideas. My favorite (and my father's favorite) is the 70% Whole Wheat Tartine bread. I add the optional ingredients at the second turn in the bulk rise. The bread is a little difficult to make, but it's amazing and if you follow the directions it should come out well. I recommend it partially because it doesn't require any sweetener to cut the bitterness of the whole wheat. Sweeteners soften the crust of the bread.

    Another option is from Bread Cetera. You can easily use the dough hook on your mixer for this one, but it does require finding a source of high-gluten flour.

    The final thing I might recommend is Peter Reinhart's Multigrain Hearth Bread from Whole Grain Breads. This might be the easiest, as it can be done with either a biga (using commercial yeast) or a starter. I have a version of it that I posted here, but it is extremely altered. To alter it back, replace the starter with biga (227g whole wheat flour, 1g instant yeast, 170g water) and add 1tsp instant yeast and 2tsp honey to the final dough. Make sure if you use commercial yeast you reduce the rising times: the first one to 2h (or until doubled in bulk) and instead of letting the dough rise overnight, let it rise for 1.5-2 hours or until it passes the poke test. A fuller (and slightly different) recipe is in the book, but this should work.

    There are also plenty of other recipes online. Good luck! Let me know how it goes.