Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New Year, New Adventures

Last year, you may recall, I embarked upon two parallel journeys. First, I made a cupcake every month from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat, which was a gift, along with an adorable cupcake making kit, from my dear friend Leah. Second, I made a cookie every month from The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book: From Chocolate Melties to Whoopie Pies, Chocolate Biscotti to Black and Whites, with Dozens of Chocolate Chip Cookies and Hundreds More by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, which was a gift from co-blogger Rebecca. Two dozen baked goods later, here we are.

A new year, a new pair of cooking adventures coming to you every month. I feel like the structure and deadline of the "of the month" projects kept me on the blog and happily in the kitchen. They also seemed to be relatively popular with our readers. So I've come up with two new food-related "of the month" blog projects (blogects?) for 2011.

First, I have long been harboring a fantasy of becoming an artisanal cheesemaker. In 2010 I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver in which she describes attending a cheesemaking class with Ricki Carroll. For Hanukkah/Christmas/Solstice/Kwanzaa/New Year 2010, co-blogger Rebecca gave me Ricki's Gourmet Home Dairy Kit. The description of said kit states:

This kit is for novice cheesemakers and success is guaranteed!! With it, you will be able to make 12 varieties of soft fresh cheeses and other dairy treats.
How many did you say? Was that 12? Like the perfect number if you were planning to make one every month? How very convenient. Dairy Product of the Month didn't have quite the right ring. After much brain storming (credit really goes to my friend April who came up with it over lunch at LACMA), we've settled on Au Lait du Mois. I am hoping co-blogger Rebecca will join me on this intrepid journey, starting this month with yogurt. If you'd like to play along at home, get thee to cheesemaking.com and order a Gourmet Home Dairy Kit of your very own.

For my next trick, I was looking for a food item we eat already but not well. While the cupcakes and cookies were great last year, I think they did some serious damage to our collective waistlines. Rather than do an "of the month" of a sometimes food, I thought I would work on improving something we would eat regardless whether I was doing this whole "of the month" thing. One of the few foods we regularly order out or open a frozen box to prepare is pizza. Mark Bittman has made it clear that pizza dough is too easy not to make yourself. But I have never made pizza dough from scratch. I haven't even had much success with the dough in a bag you can buy at Trader Joe's. I've even messed up precooked Boboli crusts before. So I have a lot to learn about this whole pizza making process. Co-blogger Rebecca kindly gave me a Lodge Pro Logic Cast-Iron 14-Inch Pizza Pan for Hanukkah/Christmas/Solstice/Kwanzaa/New Year 2010. Is it a bad sign that I didn't even know such things existed? As I have fallen in crush with Mark Scarbrough, I've purchased Pizza: Grill It, Bake It, Love It! by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. I don't know if I'll be sticking to it exclusively, like I did the two cookbooks last year, but it will certainly feature prominently in my process. Following the foreign language theme, I'm calling this venture Pizza del Mese. From what I can glean, pizza baking involves extremely high oven temperatures, so I think this should provide lots of fodder for my new writing genre "adventure cooking at home."

P.S. If you actually know French or Italian and feel my translations are off, PLEASE post a comment with your alternative translations of "Milk Product of the Month" in French or "Pizza of the Month" in Italian. Thank you!

Click here to return to Gnomicon home page


Rebecca said...

I'm looking forward to our cheese/dairy adventure. My milk of choice is only sporadically available so I will be at the whim of the local dairy, but it should be fun.

Sarah said...

You have a milk of choice? What makes it your milk of choice? Bridget's cow share is going through a transitional phase, so I'm going to have to buy milk from a store. Not sure what to look for.

Mark Scarbrough said...

"Fallen in crush." Ha! You're so sweet.

Eartha Zoƫ said...

This sounds awesome! I look forward to reading about your adventures. (Hopefully fewer of them involving actual fires this year.)

Rebecca said...

At my local organic store, most of the organic milk is ultrapasturized. Then they started carrying non-ultrapasteurized milk in glass bottles. That milk was from Pennsylvania and it was good, but not always available. Then they stopped carrying that milk and started carrying milk from a dairy in Virginia. Even better. I happened to be at Kroger and discovered that they had the same milk for half the price. So, I now get local milk that is non-ultrapasteurized. It's not officially organic because they supplement the cows with feed in the winter. The main thing that I like about this dairy is that all the milk is from their cows. It's not a conglomeration of milk from a variety of farms. That seems like a big plus from a food safety standpoint. They also sell non-homogenized whole milk, which is fun for the novelty of clotted cream on the top of the milk. I'll have to see if I have the time to make dairy products with homogenized and non-homogenized milk and compare the results.