Yeast — a resolution I can keep

220I was at a gathering recently where the topic of resolutions came up. It morphed from there to things we might be afraid of doing. We wondered out loud how long a person would need to do something to get over whatever they are afraid of doing or don’t do well. Like aversion therapy. Expose yourself to the thing you fear and eventually you can manage it.

I love cooking. I think I’m a pretty good home cook and I’m happy on the stove or in the oven. But almost every person who cooks has some aspect of cooking they don’t like or don’t do well. For me, my fears are pie dough and making things with yeast.

I’ve tried a couple of ways of making pie crust in the last year – one made with butter and rolled and one made with oil and pressed. I will have to say I feel much better about pie crust. I wouldn’t be as phobic as I have been in the past. I always understood it conceptually, but my results had been less than stellar. Cracked crusts. Crusts that don’t come together. They taste ok but they look bad. This year, that was better.

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164My mom makes excellent crust which is probably part of my problem. Hers is a high bar. My dad has raved about her pie since I was little. I grew up knowing it was good — better than her mom’s and better than his mom’s. Flaky. Excellent. Delicious. Always perfect (or so it seemed to me…). A high bar.

Mine is favorable. I suppose if I made it more often it’d get better and better. I don’t love sweet pie so much but I do think I can commit to making savory pies like quiche or vegetable crostata (free form tarts).

Still, there’s yeast. I worked with it a bit in junior high home economics class, but only a bit. My grandmother made lovely yeasted cinnamon rolls and kuga (coffee cake) and my mom is now making them and they’re delicious. My grandmother made bread rolls and now my mom often makes her own bread!  Somehow this did not pass to me.

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Mom’s apricot kuga from Christmas!

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Prune kuga — also delicious on its sweet yeasted dough base.

A friend of mine in college tried making bread when we lived in a house together. It never rose so we ate this flat, heavy loaf of bread in solidarity with her. I tried a few years ago to make cinnamon rolls but the water must have been too hot. The dough tasted fantastic but it didn’t rise.  My friend and I ate them, kind of, but they mostly went into the garbage. Not good.

I have lots of friends who say it’s not hard. Again, I get it conceptually. Everyone says err on the side of cool water so you don’t kill the yeast by having the water be too hot. Try again. I get it. I just haven’t.  I need to try again.

I’m not sure I can keep a resolution any more than any other person, but here’s one I think I might be able to keep. I will try to make something with yeast – pizza dough, rolls, whatever – at least once per month. We’ll see how it goes.

Stay tuned.

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