All posts by Gabe DiMaio

Wednesday Baking with Joe

PizzaOver the summer break, in an effort to enjoy a bonding experience and to keep my son off of the damn Xbox, we established a routine of baking on Wednesdays.  It started initially as bread baking but quickly expanded to crackers, donuts, and other baked goods.

Why Baking?

Why not baking?  First, Joe loves bread and butter as many kids (and adults) do.  Getting him to cook things that he likes is easier than say having him scale and gut a whole fish  There was no objection from me by adding dessert to the repertoire either. Triglycerides aside, I like desserts and so does my son.  So if we are going to be in the kitchen, let it be making things we mutually enjoy.

Baking was also good choice because the assembly of ingredients is easier.  Spooning cups of flour and teaspoons of cinnamon requires less interaction with knives than cooking.  So too, there was less open flame involved, though we would eventually get there when we took a foray into donut land.

100 Great BreadsKing Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

How it worked

Joe drove the bus on the things that we baked.  He perused my many cookbooks and selected which recipe he found interesting.  Primarily, we baked from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion and Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads.  My son’s job was to assemble the ingredients and to portion them.  Then, we would go over the recipes, resolve any questions, and start a bakin’.

The Challenges

My son is ten years old and has the attention span commensurate with that age so another thing to watch out for was to putting the ingredients in the correct bowl at the correct time.  Baking is more of a science, and I have learned the hard way that this matters. Also, little things such as putting the salt on top of the yeast may kill the yeast’s desire to make the bubbles necessary.

Aside from the concerns of open flames and sharp knives associated with the kitchen, there were other safety issues.  One of my family’s nicknames for me is Captain Caution, for good reason.  It is the standard operating procedure for me to think of all the things that could go wrong and think of the contingencies should those things occur.  I’m a stocky, bald, Jason Bourne without the sex appeal of Matt Damon.  I admit to this and try to make sure that Joe’s exuberances were balanced with thoughtful concern for safety.  For example, when handling hot pans, we use oven mitts or dry dishtowels.  I gently point out that perhaps it would be wiser to unplug the mixer before licking the beater.

A benefit of this process is that I learned to trust my boy more as the weeks passed.  He learned a healthy respect for the things that might happen, and I found myself not jumping in (as much) to head off any potential danger.  I overcame my fear and need to control things, and he gained more confidence in the kitchen.  In fact, on a non-baking project day, Joe asked if he could bake chocolate chip cookies entirely by himself.  I allowed this with the exception of turning on the oven.

Other Benefits

Anytime I get to interact with my son that doesn’t involve me telling him to brush his teeth or to pick up after himself is generally a good thing.  We both love to learn things and it was extra fun to share the discovery with him as opposed to telling him about it.  Also, my heart warmed as he delivered a sample for his mom to taste. He beamed at her satisfaction.  You can’t manufacture that enthusiasm.

The project was both fun AND educational.  We learned about history as we discussed the origins of some older bread recipe names and why some ingredients might have been used instead of others.  We learned the science of yeast and why some things  needed kneading while others did not; we enjoyed the word play of “needing kneading” too! We engaged actively in math.  For example, in Hollywood’s book we  had to mathematically adjust the amount of dried yeast because his recipes called for fresh yeast.

Now with school well underway with homework, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities, we’ve talked about switching things from Wednesdays to Saturdays.  That hasn’t happened yet.  I hope it does because I had a lot of fun.

I think Joe did too.

Here is the list of the things we baked during the summer with the appropriate Facebook posts that accompanied them:

Week 1

White Bread

White Bread

Week 2

They call it Batch Bread.  A very old British recipe from Georgian times. It has sugar and butter in it!

607

Week 3

They call it Naan.  It’s cooked on cast iron because there is no traditional brick oven as used in India.  The dough was sticky which accounts for its less than symmetrical shape. I will say we were going for the rustic look.

Naan

Week 4.

So far we’ve done breads from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads including white bread, naan, and something called Batch Bread.

This week my boy decided that he wanted pizza AND garlic bread made from scratch as part of the project.

The ciabatta is from Hollywood’s book and was used for the garlic bread.

The pizza dough is from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook.

CiabattaPizza

Week 5

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.  This type of bread is not a yeast bread recipe that Joseph and I have been making heretofore.  This is bejeweled with walnuts and chocolate chips and makes a nice addition to breakfast.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Week 6

As is his wont, Joseph chose to shake things up and bake cheese crackers this week instead of bread.  I think next week, he indicated he wants to go back to bread.

Cheese Crackers

Week 7

Last week, we did cheddar crackers, but it is back to bread this week! Joe and I made an English bread called farl. It is a butter enriched bread also known as “oven bottom,” because it was traditionally baked at the bottom of the oven. Imagine that?!  It is from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads.

FarlWeek 8

While we’ve been doing mostly breads, Joe wanted to make chocolate donuts with chocolate glaze from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

DonutsWeek 9

Today, Joe and I made bagels! Especially timely since our bagel shop down the block closed about a week and a half ago.

We dig into them for breakfast tomorrow but I am already thinking on next time taking a stab at sesame seed bagels and (dare I mention) bialys!

BagelsWeek 10

Due to a shift in priorities, baking bread has broadened to baking in general.  Today, Joe and I made Chocolate Éclairs! I would have made more pastry cream but otherwise I think it was a success for a first try!Eclairs

Week 11

img_3266

Today, Joe and I made Orange Cranberry Scones. Delightfully light and not too sweet, these will be great for breakfast tomorrow.

Guys and Food Promo



Think of it as a man cave where guys talk food and drink instead of sports!

Guys and Food is for you and other guys who love food. You don’t have be a chef or work in the food business. You don’t have to be an expert or a gourmet. You may just enjoy cooking, you may like to explore history or other cultures through food, or you may just like to eat.

You’ll probably like Guys and Food if:

• Your idea of a power tool is an immersion blender.

• You’re more interested in who won Top Chef than who won the latest sporting event in the national headlines.

• You’re the type of guy who likes to talk about the last meal that you ate, the meal you are eating, and the next meal you’ll eat.

• You covet your friend’s Viking Stove over his new sports car.

New Stove, New Possibilities

Samsung NX58F5700WS
Samsung NX58F5700WS

We greeted the arrival of our Samsung NX58F5700WS freestanding gas range and convection oven with the fanfare appropriate of a visiting international dignitary.  That didn’t happen when other appliances made their way into the house–not the refrigerator and certainly not new washing machine.  They didn’t get a fraction of the attention and for good reason.  For food people, a stove not only serves the utilitarian function of adding heat or flame to things that we will eat, it serves as a portal to a magical land of what could be.

In the reflection of the stainless steel, I flash-forwarded to Thanksgiving meals lovingly prepared in the not-too-distant future:  a giant roasted turkey worthy of a Rockwell painting, mountains of two kinds of stuffing, and mashed potatoes that would make my wife and son embrace each other as they cried with delight.  Soon after, many assorted Italian Christmas cookies would come out in piles to celebrate the birth of Jesus by way of gluttony.  A few months later, a garlic-studded leg of lamb, roasted to perfection, would bookend a meal with an Easter Pie.  In between all of those holidays, freshly baked cakes, pies and dessert bars would welcome my boy home from school, and rustic loaves of bread would be a daily occurrence.

Its predecessor, the generations old Magic Chef stove was functional with two and a half of the four burners working.  However, its oven door broke off after daily use since the Nixon administration; we quickly forgot it before the deliverymen left the driveway.  It came with our house when we moved in over a decade before.  It was on its last legs then but we kept it because my wife and I had plans for a glorious kitchen remodel that would happen once we settled in.  It made sense to wait and buy all new appliances all at once. Life and finances got in the way, and the remodel still hasn’t happened.  A while back, the dilapidated refrigerator broke, and we replaced it.  Not with the Sub-zero that was the stuff of my fantasies, but it’s a nice LG, and it gets the job done.  But like Fantine in Les Misérables, I whist fully dream a dream of what life could be like in my fancy new kitchen.

It would be a bright and sunny room with lots of granite counter space and a center island.  A rainbow might even be perpetually present over the pots of fresh basil, rosemary, and chives.  It would be well organized too.  Pots, pans, and Tupperware containers would be neatly arranged and would not cascade out in a cacophony like the contents of Dagwood Bumstead’s closet.  The deep sink would be able to accommodate dishes in addition to the many canning, brining, and fermenting projects that would be done.

It’s more than just an appliance.  With a new stove, comes the promise of new and exciting possibilities.

So too, this is a new blog and I am excited about creating this space for guys who love food.  I am also excited about the Guys and Food podcast that is on the way.  Stay tuned!

“Think of it as a man cave where guys talk about food, instead of sports…”


Did you ever notice that there is no place for regular guys to talk about food?

In all the media, of all of the television shows, of all of the places online– can you think of a place? Sure, there are plenty of men in the media talking about food—and they all seem to be chefs, don’t they? There is absolutely nothing wrong with chefs. But as with any profession, when guys talk about their work there is a different interaction, and a different agenda. Don’t you think?

I wanted to create a place to tell stories that would be interesting to everyday guys who care about, and think about food. I want to find the answers to questions that guys have about food-related issues; this is that place.

This is not the He-Man Women Haters Club. While all are welcome in this place, it is my experience that the phrase, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” is true. I am not diminishing women nor is it my goal to exclude them or undermine them as a gender. But this is a place for guys to be guys. For men to ask questions and make comments that they ask, in the way that they ask them. Think of it as a man cave where guys talk about food, instead of sports.

Please let me know what you are thinking by contacting Guys and Food or by taking a quick survey!