I’m a little behind in blogging about the latest round in the Bread Bible bake-through, but it looks like I’m not the only one. 🙂 We all came to an agreement in the Facebook group that this would be a no-pressure baking & blogging project, and that people could join or not join for any given month, with no strings attached. I like it. We’re supposed to post on the first Wednesday of the month, and it is now the last one, so, I like to think I’m just embracing the no-pressure thing! The most recent recipe on the schedule was the prosciutto ring. This is another one of those recipes that I would never try making if it weren’t for a bake-through project like this, so I’m glad I signed up for this group.
Prosciutto ring. It’s a straight dough method, and 6-10 years ago, I would have looked at you and said “Huh?” Straight dough just means that you mix everything up together, and combine all of the wet & dry ingredients right away. With bread dough, aside from “straight dough,” some of the other possibilities include a sourdough starter or a sponge.
Mix all the dry ingredients and add the malt syrup. Then add in the water, and mix for a minute or so. Let the dough rest briefly, then knead in the prosciutto.
The smell of prosciutto will forever now take me back to Italy, where we toured a prosciutto producer’s facility in Modena. That day we also visited a cheese producer and visited a balsamic vinegar maker, and I can still taste the warm ricotta cheese drizzled with aged balsamic. Mmmmmmm…
My ring rose well, but it started smoking at the 20 minute mark, when it was supposed to take at least 30. I took it out and let it cool.
Jay saw it, started working on making supper, and pulled out a plate, added some oil and some of the vinegar that we brought back with us from Italy over a year ago (we’ve been savoring it!), and we destroyed half the loaf while making supper!
Verdict: Definitely something to make again the next time I have a group of friends over. I can see it going very well in the middle of a table of friends, with a couple of plates of oil & vinegar to share.
It’s funny how your attitude starts to shift as you get more and more experience with something. I started this post talking about recipes, like this one, that I wouldn’t have tried if I hadn’t joined this bake-through. I recently (early June) got the opportunity to see Malcolm Gladwell speak, and I did a little bit of reading about some of his books & philosophies, as a result of that experience. He’s the guy often quoted as claiming that you need 10,000 hours of practice in something to become an expert. That’s apparently not quite how his argument goes, but that’s how it’s often attributed. Bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this.
The other day, a friend posted about an abundance of apricots that he had on hand from the tree in his yard, and said they were free for the taking. I went and checked my go-to baking books for an apricot pie recipe, and there was nothing. Just the one chart in The Pie and Pastry Bible that lists the amounts of cornstarch and sugar needed for apricots. Initially: disappointment. Then I thought, “Wait. You don’t need a recipe. You’ve got a road map. You can figure it out.” So, I told my friend to bring 4-6 cups of apricots in to work, and offered to turn them into a pie. I delivered the pie to him at work this morning, and it went over very, very well, with almost everyone. I’ve got one person (friend, mentor, colleague) at work that I know I can always rely on for useful feedback – both in baking and in my work-work. I’d never made an apricot pie before, and he’d never tried one, but he suggested that this pie was maybe a bit tart, and like rhubarb, maybe apricots would benefit from mixing with a sweeter fruit? I’d never thought of apricots as being tart, but I’d also never had a dessert that was basically 100% apricot filled, and I had to agree. My friend gave me plenty of apricots, so I have lots left for another pie (or maybe two, if I’m adding other fruit), so I thought about the options for additions. My first thought was blueberries, but on the way home tonight, I got a brainwave and decided to pick up a pint of strawberries at the farm market I pass every day on my commute. I’ll put them into pie tomorrow night, and bring that for Thursday’s BBQ lunch, and see if it’s any better. Not that anyone said that the apricot was bad – quite the contrary. I just really appreciate input that can take something good and make it better.
I said I was going somewhere with this. My point is, I wouldn’t have nearly as much experience with baking nearly as many different things as I’ve tried out over the last (… what? 5 years? Oh, geeze, it’s coming up on 6! …) if it weren’t for these bake-throughs. Baking my way through Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, The Baking Bible, and now The Bread Bible, has been like taking a series of classes from a master pastry chef. And I feel like I’ve gained enough experience to be at least a little bit confident with throwing caution to the wind when I get a suggestion of something like “Have you thought about mixing fruits here?” and running with it. I can pick something that might compliment and figure out where to adjust the sugar & thickener, no problem. So, while I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, I’m definitely gaining confidence. Feels good. Of course, saying that, the next pie will probably be a disaster, but that’s OK. My friends will eat it anyway. 😀
PS: Sorry for the wall of text. 😉