Bake day

October 15, 2006

All of the culinary fiction (good and bad) that I’ve consumed lately finally caught up with me, and I spent most of yesterday baking. Both were from recipes from Baking with Julia.

My partner has made challah from another recipe in the bread machine before, and it turned out really well. I tried the purist approach, following the book’s recipe carefully, and it didn’t turn out nearly as well as the improvised, machine made version. It’s nice bread, but it isn’t as eggy and sweet as any of the really good challah I’ve had. (Confession: I was too lazy to braid and shape it in the traditional way. It was sticky.) It will probably make good French toast at some point. (I tend to agree with this person on the outcome, and on the superiority of the challah at Whole Foods, though the nearest one is about 90 minutes away. That’s probably just as well.)

I also got it into my head that I wanted to make a complicated dessert of some sort, so I went with the mocha brownie cake that’s cut into three layers and slathered with ganache. Because it didn’t seem sufficiently time-consuming or fiddly, I decided to add layers of chocolate mousse as well, and used Alton Brown’s recipe (though I halved it).

I’ve noticed something weird about Brown’s recipes: if they’re for a dish I normally really like, I don’t care for his version. If they’re for something I don’t normally enjoy (like fruitcake), he really knocks it out of the park. The mousse is okay, though I would be disappointed if I’d made it just to have mousse.

I usually avoid tricky pastry assemblies or presentations, because I suck at them. (Pie crust seems to be completely beyond my abilities in the kitchen.) This one turned out really nicely though. It’s pretty and satisfyingly dramatic, though it’s far too much cake to have in the house, and it’s way too rich to have more than a small slice.