Thursday, October 29, 2009
Essentials of a Dutch Baby
Nothing inspires me more than a handful of shiny apples lying forlornly at the bottom of their formerly full bushel box. What to do, I wondered. I decided last week that I should highlight a few of the cookbooks I rely on regularly to bake or cook away the doldrums of a gloomy, midwestern fall once the leaves are all raked up. I found it easiest to combine the two projects: apples and cookbook.
The Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking book is one I opened on Christmas, wrapped in laughing santas with a note from my mother. I'd just begun to fling handfuls of flour recklessly about my Colorado kitchen, with mixed results. Altitude, I quickly learned, was not the friend of handwritten recipe cards from middle America. Initially my favorite thing about the cookbook was a handy chart in the introductory section that described your problem and told you what part of the recipe you screwed up. I rapidly grew more confidant. Later my favorite thing became that everything turned out perfectly, but that was after I figured out how to follow the yeasty (and sometimes lengthy) directions.
Six years later this is still my most-used cookbook, though now I've handwritten some of my bread staples onto recipe cards to prolong the book's spine. It's given me the confidance to branch out into tricky, multi-paged recipes, to know when it'll be better to chill the dough even when another cookbook skips it, to read a recipe and sense when the measurements are off — like one Martha Stewart recipe that calls for two tablespoons of salt when it should be teaspoons. If you need just one baking guide to get started, I highly recommend Essentials of Baking.
This week I made the Apple Oven Pancake (called a Dutch baby when you do it in cast iron) and I wrote " halved recipe to bake in cast iron but doubled apples — sank right away, still good tho." It would've turned out fine if I hadn't adjusted the fruit content. Still, are there leftovers? No. Which, really, says it all.