Tuesday, February 26, 2008

brunch and breakfast beer

We had a Business Brunch yesterday -- we had to meet to talk about our Americorps project, so of course I decided this was a great excuse to feed people. Honestly, what isn't a great excuse to feed people?

So Steph brought eggs and bread, and nobody else brought anything, and that was cool. Because I made cinnamon rolls (from pioneer woman's recipe this time, mixing it up!) and cinnamon raisin bread (because Steph and Andrew conspired to convince me to make it for them. They aren't very good conspirators. I think Andrew said, "So... Cinnamon raisin bread. Pretty good, huh? Think you could make it?")

And also poached eggs with toast. Hence the eggs and bread.

So. Brunch. That morning, Andrew actually arrived on time, which threw us all off -- William had to get out of bed, and I had to change out of my pajamas, because since when have any of our friends arrived anywhere on time? I mean, really?

Anyway, as he was sitting around watching me cook and waiting for the Business Meeting to start, he starts talking about breakfast beer -- that is, any beer you drink before noon. "Brunch is pretty much the perfect meal," he said, by way of explanation. We were confused, too.

"Taste-wise, I mean. It's scientifically proven that your taste buds are most awake at 10 a.m., or 10:30-ish." Bear in mind that Andrew is fond of making up facts.

"So the food you eat at 10-ish tastes better than if you eat it at other times of the day." We waited for it. "And the same goes for beer!"

So Andrew did end up buying breakfast beer, which he drank with brunch. The whole idea sounds a little bit nauseating to me.

Speaking of nauseating, let's talk about how much sugar we all ingested. I need to stop making cinnamon buns, I mean, really.

I actually started off my morning bright and early, starting the cinnamon raisin bread. I wanted the raisins throughout the recipe, not just in the spiral, because putting too much in the spirally bit is pretty much a recipe for things falling apart. I'm no baking buff, but I know just a smidge about literature, and what Mr. Achebe taught me is that things do indeed fall apart. Especially if you put too many raisins in the spirally bit.

So I scalded the milk -- okay, what's up with scalding milk? I can NEVER do it. I swear to goodness, I look at the milk, no bubbles, stick my finger in, it's just warm, turn around for 5 SECONDS (or maybe just long enough to read the comics, whatever) and BOOM, there's a milk explosion and all the milk in the WORLD is boiling in my saucepan. Stupid milk.

So then I wait for it to cool, and start reading webcomics, and before I know it my milk mixture is frigid and I have to heat it up AGAIN.

Did everybody who ever tried to learn how to cook once suck this much? I swear. I think not.

Point is, it took a little while to get the milk bit all started, but after that, I was doing really well. I got to knead the bread, which pretty much eliminated all my frustrations. There's something immensely satisfying in taking an ornery-looking, sticky, flour-covered mess and, using just your hands and a floury table, persuading it to turn into a delightful, smooth, springy, PROPER dough.

Which, after rising, looked a lot like this:

That's actually in our very biggest bowl. I made a lot -- one loaf for Steph, one for Andrew, and one for us, after all.

So then I got to roll it out and smear it with butter...

... and then cover it with oodles of brown sugar and cinnamon...

...then roll it up!

Oh man. This is one of my favorite parts of cooking. When everything is all set to undergo its Transformative Heat Experience -- the hero's journey through the underworld, if you will -- and I've done everything right so far and it seems there's nothing I can do to mess it up now, just pop it in the oven and it'll be done, it's gonna be great!

It's the moment BEFORE I've screwed everything up -- the milk got scalded twice, whatever, look how great it looks! Oh, brief, shining, golden moment...

So, while the bread was rising beautifully in the loaf pans, I went back to the cinnamon rolls. I'd started the recipe last night, then paused and put it in the fridge. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember at what point I'd stopped... so, I thought about it rationally. There was a point in the recipe where it SUGGESTED you pause, and then another part a little bit before that where it really didn't make any sense to stop.

Hmm. Which would I have done?

No contest. The wrong one. So, using that logic -- which turned out to be splendidly correct! -- I soldiered on. Roll it out, cover it in butter, then sugar, then cinnamon... hey, this sounds familiar!

Oh man. Doesn't it look beautiful?

Have I ever mentioned how much I love this part of cooking? The bit where everything's assembled and okay and all you have to do is pop it in the oven and everything will be fine?

I popped 'em in the oven, other Americorps showed up, I pulled them out of the oven and liberally doused them with vanilla glaze, plopped them ceremoniously upside-down on a plate, with much splattering of glaze, and proudly served them to my guests...

... who, after a few chewy chews, unpolitely said, "You know, Camila, these really could have used a good while longer in the oven."

Well. One of them said that, anyway. And how right she was... the outside was perfect, but the inside of the swirly bits? Raw, raw, raw.

I sighed, and tossed the next pan of cinnamon rolls in the oven. That's right. I made PANS of them. I still have dough in my fridge. I can be excessive sometimes.

I ate the raw-ish ones anyway. Looked pretty, at least.

Meanwhile, I was poaching eggs -- oh, and wearing a dress and apron, which Steph thought was HILARIOUS. She said all I needed was pearls, so I threw those on, too -- and when I was wearing heels and pouring tea I think she almost had a heart attack.

Poaching eggs. Right. Is it just me, or is that also impossible? I can poach 'em just fine, as long as you're okay with them being extremely flat -- or swirly -- or stringy -- or kind of like a bunch of balloons -- or, really, any shape other than nice and roundish. I even do the thing where you make the water like a little whirlpool first -- doesn't help! I've lowered them from spoons, plopped them straight in, I swear, nothing helps.

And since poached is really the only way I actually LIKE eggs -- poached, on toast, with cheddar cheese and bell peppers and salsa, like my parents used to make on those rare occasions when they'd make poached eggs -- point is, it's problematic. Ah well.

And then I pulled the second batch of cinnamon rolls from the oven, and they were VERY brown on top, but I wasn't gonna take them out early because, god damn it, these were going to be done enough for Steph if it killed me.

They were pretty darn done.

They were good too, though.

So then I popped the bread in the oven, and finally got to sit down and enjoy my eggs, and we had a charming Business meeting after our Brunch. Also, there was tea.

And then we sort of hung around for a while, and then we went to the park and played frisbee, and also dodgeball sort of simultaneously, and it was BEAUTIFUL day. February is by far the best time to be living in the desert. I hate February back home, but here it is 70 degrees and sunny and blue and flowery and generally just May-gorgeous.

And we were frolicking about and throwing balls at each other and William and James were doing trick throws and I thought about how lovely it was and


I remembered the bread! The bread that was supposed to bake for 45 minutes, and that I put in the oven TWO HOURS ago!

We literally ran back to the complex while the others drove home, half-expecting a smoky, loudly-beeping apartment with two huge lumps of charcoal in the oven. Rarely do I feel quite that stupid.

and I pulled them out and kind of wanted to cry -- but didn't! -- and I took out the extra loaf of bread and put it in a loaf pan to rise because I had to redeem this somehow,

and then I actually looked at the bread.

I mean... that's not really that bad, is it?

(Isn't that giant swollen raisin funny?) Nervously, I cut off the very end... and it was -- okay! Very crusty, but not charcoal! I cooked it for more than twice as long as I was supposed to, and it just got crustier!!!

That is hands-down the thing that has surprised me the most about baking bread... how forgiving it is. I have always had the idea that baking, more than any other kind of cooking, requires precise measurements and careful timing and delicacy. I've thought that if you didn't do it just right, you'd end up with a catastrophe.

But I messed up on this bread so many times, and yet -- pretty darn okay! I'm beginning to think that it's not as bad as I thought -- as long as I don't kill the yeast, and give it time to rise, everything else can probably be okay.

Watch -- now that I've said that, the next loaf of bread I make will be utterly destroyed because I used 1/16th of a teaspoon too little salt.

It's pretty darn delicious toasted, with butter, if I do say so myself.

Anyway. That was my brunchy adventure. The house smelled awesome for a day or so -- I highly recommend baking cinnamon raisin bread.

Cinnamon rolls? Not so much. All you'll get is ingratitude and complaints about gooiness.

Oh yeah -- and a dozen cinnamon rolls left over that you'll have to eat all by yourself.

My life is so hard.

1 comment:

Mar said...

Delicius!!!, mmmmmmmm.