Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Baker's Dilemma

I want to make a tall, snow-white coconut cake, with a light, fluffy frosting that's covered in big, fat coconut flakes. I saw it on the cover of Family Circle, and it looked irresistible. I also want to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies using the new, improved recipe I just saw on the America's Test Kitchen show. You melt the butter first – in fact, you brown the butter. Then there's this amazing-looking chocolate bundt cake dusted in confectioner's sugar. I could go on, but that brings me to my dilemma.

You see, there are two of us at home now, and neither of us needs any added fat or sugar. We have to work out almost every day just to take OFF some of the fat we've added to ourselves. So when I'm craving the enjoyment of baking something sweet, the question always comes up: Who's going to eat it?

I can allow myself a piece (so can he), then work like crazy to get rid of the calories. But that's not the point – there are 6, 8, or 10 (maybe a dozen) MORE pieces that shouldn't be consumed in this household. I can't bear the thought of creating something dazzling and yummy only to throw the rest away. So I can let it sit until it grows mold (that happened recently with a covered-up apple pie), which makes it much easier to toss, or I can eat it all and regret it.

Maybe there's a better way. My dream is to run my own bakery, but that is highly improbable and impractical (and bakers get up WAY too early in the morning). If I can't sell it, I could give the excess away. So I'm proposing a baking exchange, sort of like a Christmas cookie swap, but different. Here's how it would work:
I can't resist making that lovely coconut cake, so I get the word out to my friends and/or neighbors (the nice, safe ones) that cake is imminent. Or cookies, or pie. Maybe even a nice loaf of cheese bread. You get the idea. I give them a window of time to come over, and at the appointed time, I answer the door with one or two pieces on a paper plate, nicely wrapped, and the caller takes it home to enjoy it. No muss, no fuss, no obligation to come in and chat and have coffee, although I would very much like that, from time to time. Then, when my friend gets the urge to bake but doesn't want to overindulge, I'll go to her house and she'll hand me something yummy. Unless it's lemon, because I don't do lemon.
What do you think? Would it work? I am living in a new neighborhood and have yet to make friends of the neighbors, although Pat and Judy seem nice. There are the church ladies, some of whom live close to me, and then there's Lisa, a woman I met through Freecycle. She's a baker too, so maybe she has the same dilemma.

I'll let you know what happens.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie the New-fashioned Way

When four of us were all living in the same house, I made chicken pot pie from scratch. Everything about it was homemade, including the gravy and the pie crust. The only thing that would've been more authentic would be a freshly killed chicken, but I didn't have one of those, so I bought a cheap frying chicken, dunked it in a pot of boiling water, and then spent too much time picking the meat off the bones.

Now, as the mother of grown children and the wife of a man who doesn't eat pot pies, stews, or most anything else involving veggies, I have no one to bake that old-fashioned pot pie for, except myself. I'm not about to go to all that trouble just for me; if I'm going to do that much work, it must somehow involve chocolate. (Sorry, chicken and chocolate don't mix.)

Yet I still crave it—the flaky crust, savory gravy, fresh-tasting vegetables, and chunks of genuine chicken. After trying various store-bought versions, I'm convinced there is no substitute for homemade.

The need: a pot pie for one. The problem: I can't find a recipe. The solution: Create my own recipe, and make it do-able in 20 minutes instead of two hours.

I gathered a few staples from my pantry & fridge: chicken bouillon, chicken gravy powder, Heinz chicken gravy, frozen peas, fresh carrots, one small potato, Kirkland chicken, refrigerated croissants (the kind that come in a roll), and milk. Then, guessing but not measuring, I did this:
  • Preheated the oven to 350 or so (this old oven is off by about 25 degrees)
  • Heated some milk on the stove
  • Mixed some chicken gravy powder with a little water and poured it into the heated milk, stirring a lot till it thickened
  • Dumped the rest of the leftover Heinz chicken gravy into the heated mixture; stirred
  • Chopped up some baby carrots, nuked them till tender, and dumped them in the mixture
  • Nuked the potato for a couple of minutes until slightly tender
  • Put a handful of frozen peas in the mixture
  • Peeled the cooked potato, diced it, and put it in the mixture
  • Put an entire can of Kirkland chicken breast in the mixture (I'm stirring all of this together, right?)
  • Tasted the mixture and decided it needed more chicken flavor; put some bouillon in
  • Heated the mixture thoroughly for a few minutes, then poured it in a small (Marie Callender-sized) pie tin
  • Quickly poured it into a larger pie tin before it spilled over the edges (this was shaping up to be a family-sized pie after all)
  • Unrolled the refrigerator croissants and laid most of them over the top of the mixture, cutting and shaping as necessary so they fit with edges mostly touching
  • Put the whole thing in the oven and set the timer for 11 minutes (about the time recommended to brown the croissants)
  • Guessed at the 11 minutes after my husband accidentally shut off the timer
  • Pulled out a perfectly browned, delicious pot pie
From start to finish, it took a little more than 20 minutes; it'll be faster next time, now that I have a "recipe."

After I realized how much I had made, I did my best to talk Scotty into sharing it with me, but he firmly maintained his "I don't do pot pies" stance. I texted my son who lives 10 minutes away to see if his family had already had dinner; they had. So I dug in with a fork, not even bothering to scoop a serving onto a plate.

I'll be eating it for a week, but... Yum.