Okay, 2013, here we go.
This year, I have a few changes to announce. First, you may have noticed that we’re at a new address. Update your bookmarks, if I’m lucky enough to be there, to http://blackberryeating.com. As I understand it, the old address will still work, it will just redirect you here. As I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve been wanted to upgrade to an address that makes more sense for what I’m doing here. Blackberries, their mystery and decadence, remind me of all that is good about food: what is sweet, what is juicy, what is challenging, what is delicate, what is persnickety and strong. The Galway Kinnell poem from which the title of this blog is taken celebrates juxtaposition and excess, likens these jeweled fruits to words and the consumption of those fruits to the search for meaning and significance. This is a little piece of significance for me – this collection of words thrust with crossed fingers and squinted eyes out across the internet – and so I wanted to make it more connected, more applicable, but really, more mine.
Who ever thought so much consideration could go into a new address?
With the Bittman project over and a new address settled, it’s time to submerge myself in a new challenge. As you know if you’ve been reading for a while, dough – particularly pie dough and yeasted dough – is one of my big fears. What if it doesn’t rise? What if it crumbles apart? What if it tears or burns or collapses or comes out tough or doesn’t bake right? What if it’s (gasp) imperfect?
I decided I need to get over this.
This year, each week, I will make something out of dough. It might be pie crust. It might be cookies. It might be pizza or foccaccia or flatbread. It might, as terrifying as this is to me, be a real, honest-to-goodness loaf of bread, bloomed and kneaded, baked until crusty in a loaf pan. I have a crazy notion that I want homemade bagels. I have a yen to make doughnuts, and not just cake doughnuts, but the beautiful puff and chewy crumb of a good yeasted twist.
I don’t – and this is important to note – promise absolute success. You’re going to see what crumbles along the way. You’re going to see the scraps and scrapes and disasters I produce. I think this is an important part of learning, and that’s part of what this blog is for me.
I have a few guides in this project, one hoped for and long awaited, one unexpected but delightful. From my in-laws, I received Michael Ruhlman’s genius book Ratio. This isn’t a cookbook. It’s more than that. It’s more exciting, it’s more foundational, and ultimately, I think, it’s more useful. It doesn’t tell you how to make cherry pie, it tells you the essential equation of pie dough. Three parts flour, two parts fat, one part water. That will always equal pie dough. Suddenly, you can use any kind of flour – more than one kind, if you want. You can use lard instead of butter. You can make one pie or you can make thirty-five pies, and you don’t have to think as hard about multiplying or adding or fractioning. You have a ratio, and it is always going to work.
That’s the theory. And I believe it, but I haven’t tried it out just yet.
From my parents, I received a bread machine. I’ve never used a bread machine before, and while my immediate thought is that to really master dough, I will also have to make it by hand so I understand the kneading and the cycles of rising, and so I will come to know the feeling of the right kind of stretch and the windowpane test and the knowledge beneath my fingers that yes, this is bread, having a machine help me along the way is going to be nice. The idea of dumping, in pajamas at 10pm, a series of ingredients into a pan, plugging in a machine, and telling it I want a fresh, hot loaf of bread at 7am, delights and astounds me. I want to understand, but I also want the magic.
So that’s the plan. If all goes well, it will mean more of this:
It may even mean some of this:
I don’t expect it will mean all dough, all the time, just as the past two years were not exclusively Bittman concoctions. If something amazing comes along that doesn’t involve flour or eggs or butter, I will still report on it. But the goal this year – the resolution, if you will – is to conquer this dough thing. I want to have conversations with you about it. I want your feedback and advice and experiences. And I hope you enjoy.