Saturday, July 24, 2010

And babka's your uncle

I made my first risotto tonight! I was sort of intimidated for two reasons:
1. Rumor has it that a good risotto is very difficult to achieve.
2. We've been watching a lot of Hell's Kitchen, and most of the chefs screw up their risottos on the line, which leads to torrents of profanity from Gordon Ramsay accompanying either the complaint that "it's MUSHY!" or "it's BULLETS!" I did not want to serve either mush or bullets for dinner.

But seriously, the hardest thing about it was making peace with the fact that I didn't have fresh herbs (the basil didn't last as long as I'd hoped, and I had to toss the brown and mushy remnants) and just using dried. Or maybe standing over the stove in the air conditioning-free kitchen for 25 minutes. Despite that, risotto will certainly become one of my new low-cost, easily variable dishes; I'm particularly excited thinking of all the options for the liquid, since in addition to the combination of white wine and vegetable broth I used today, I could see using a dab of red wine, porcini broth, or putting a little cream or milk in.

This had carrots, onions, garlic, spinach, tomato, and Parmesan in it. The rest of the spinach and tomato went into side salads.

Dessert was yet another supposedly difficult project: babka. Now, my perceived ease with it could have been a result of the fact that I made one babka instead of the three that the recipe called for. Three. That would have taken 2.5 pounds of chocolate, a pound of butter, six cups of flour... You get my drift. Who has three 9-inch loaf pans? Who can eat three babka before they go stale? Anyway, with the smaller proportions and a few more modifications that I can share with you if you're interested in baking the scaled-down recipe, this turned out... well, pretty much like a loaf of sweet yeast bread filled with cinnamon and chocolate. I didn't put streusel on the top, partly because I was simultaneously risotto-wrangling and partly because I have been using my food processor to make confectioner's sugar and have begun to fear bagassosis from all the sugar dust that I've been inhaling as a result and partly because streusel has no place on babka and those who think it does are just wrong.

The second twisting sort of came untwisted during the subsequent resting period and the oven rising it did, but no matter. It was still pretty, and it was still threaded with chocolate in that particularly babka-y way.

Andy suggested that the only thing that would have improved this would be a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top immediately post-final egg wash. I agree. This has replaced St. Louis butter cake as my favorite homemade dessert.

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