Weekend in food

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A few women I met through an East Coast fellowship program several years ago have now settled themselves around the Bay Area. We try to get together every few months ago to catch up on each other (with varying degrees of success). Over the summer, someone devised the idea of having a baking day: we pick a recipe or two, somebody volunteers to host, and on the appointed day we all get together and bake the chosen item(s). This past Saturday, I volunteered for hosting duties. We selected this chocolate babka recipe as baked good number one, and I exercised my hostessing rights and declared that the second item should be a ginger pear tart (because I needed to give the another test drive before letting it loose here on the blog). We wound up being a party of just two (see what I mean about success and its varying degrees?), but went full steam ahead with the baking program as planned. Some highlights:

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Weighing out the chocolate to make sure we get the full 8oz

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This recipe is not joking around: whole milk, eggs, mascarpone

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Finished products

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Chocolate swirls

My thoughts? The babka recipe was incredibly rich, and fresh out of the oven it was amazing and needed no smear of butter, jam, or preserves. However…by Sunday afternoon the remaining babka had gotten quite firm, and my Monday morning slice was bordering on greasy. I’ll concede some of the problems may have been our own fault for opting to rush the rising process a little. If I use this recipe again, I’ll make myself wait until the dough has really, truly doubled in volume. I’ll probably also cut back on the 1/2 cup of sugar that’s mixed with the chocolate, as some of it definitely retained its granularity post-baking. Finally, I might cut the butter content by a tiny bit, maybe down to an even stick rather than the 1 1/4 sticks called for in the recipe.

As for the tart, it’s about 99% right, but there’s one more tweak I want to try still. The ingredients are now all balanced, but the baking time needs some work. So, sorry, no recipe just yet.

Despite the slight room for improvement, we still managed quite the afternoon tea, adding some banana cinnamon soft serve into the mix:

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Enjoying the fruits of our labors

So that was Saturday. On Sunday, I spent a far more pedestrian few hours chopping up vegetables, making a batch of chili, and generally getting a head start on food for the week. Check out our stocked fridge on Sunday night:

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The goal here is to spend less time on meal prep and (more importantly) much less time on clean up during the week. I’m really trying to get into a habit on this and also figure out which tasks are most time saving when they’re grouped together. I’ll probably post a few updates as I figure things out, so if dinner amidst weeknight time crunches is a problem for you too, feel free to follow along (or leave a comment with your strategies!).

For reference, this week’s prep session included:
1. making a medium sized batch of chocolate chili (~8 servings, plan to eat 6 this week and freeze the other two)
2. slicing and salting two eggplants (for making balsamic eggplant later in the week)
3. peeling and dicing two heads of garlic (I think weaning ourselves down to a lower level of garlic might be a big timesaver!)
4. filling several containers with sliced carrots (for afternoon snacking at work)
5. grating two heads of cauliflower. One was immediately made into Spanish “rice”, the other’s in the fridge to be cooked into cauliflower rice pilaf
6. slicing a head of red cabbage and two bunches of kale. Half sauteed on Sunday, half in the fridge to be cooked later. Some of this will be eaten plain, some will be getting mixed with spicy peanut sauce.
7. chopping and cooking a mix of onions/bell peppers/zucchini, part for M. to take to work during the week, part to serve as an all purpose vegetable side at dinners.

If all goes according to plan, I won’t have to do any major food prep again until Friday, and I’ll only have to do any serious cooking on Wednesday (microwaving does not count as cooking, and neither does anything that requires less than five minutes of stove time, like fried eggs). Phew!

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