Monday, June 17, 2013

Don't overwork the dough

It's always seemed to me that those who like to cook and those who like to bake are very different people; one relies on improvisation, the other follows the rules; one estimates, one measures precisely; one says let's see where this takes us and the other replies oh, I know where we're going. Someone might be able to pull off both cooking and baking on occasion, but they know in their heart which way they go. I am very much a cook. Most of my past baking attempts have been meh at best, because I substitute one thing for another, chicken out of using enough butter, or take the instructions to rest the dough as a suggestion instead of a requirement.
I've pushed my limits a bit over the last few years by brewing beer, which is largely a precision game, and lately I've even been baking bread. Bread fits my fancy because while you definitely need to do what the recipe tells you, you also need to feel the way the dough is going and make a judgment call: more flour, less flour, has it doubled yet, and so on. I've occasionally pulled simple things off - breakfast goods, or an olive oil cake - but anything that comes with a "do not overwork the dough" or "let the dough rest" warning has scared me off.
This weekend marked a huge step forward for me - I made a galette, which required a flaky crust. I just needed to get over my butter aversion and, you know, not overwork the dough. I used this rough recipe, which turned out a fantastic strawberry nectarine galette.
I like to think this marks a bit of a breakthrough, the ability to give in a little bit to rule and tradition, to recognize that there are processes in place for a reason and I don't need to wing it all the time. For instance: I'm embracing a certain level of domesticity, even though my gut is yelling at me to get there and rage while I'm still in my 20s (less than a month, argh). I am finally taking the advice of absolutely everyone in the world and eating less and exercising more to lose weight (galette notwithstanding) instead of coming up with weird workarounds that I thought would apply only to me. (I was the skinniest I've ever been in college while eating only chicken fingers and drinking only Diet Coke. I was also 21 and stressed out of my mind.) I've finally, to the relief of my credit cards, started a budget. Sometimes it's nice to follow the rules.

Especially when it comes to baked goods.

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