Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gluten-Free Baking

On the Baker's Hotline at King Arthur Flour, we receive a great deal of questions regarding the relatively new KAF gluten-free mixes and products. Last week I was able to duck into the test kitchen for a few hours to play with the gluten-free mixes to become more familiar with how they function.

The playground.

First on the agenda, was the gluten-free cookie mix. Since I knew the cookie mix would yield terrific chocolate chip cookies, I decided to push the mix a step further. Naturally, I went the Monster cookie route. I stirred PB, oats, M&Ms and chocolate chips into the mix. They actually turned out quite well. For a first test-bake anyway.

Next in line was the gluten-free brownie mix. Again, since I knew the mix would create fantastic regular brownies, I attempted to transform the batter into cookies. Specifically, chocolate crackle cookies.

This modification still needs some work. I think I got a bit carried adding the the Multi-Purpose Gluten-Free flour to thicken the batter so the cookies were slightly crumbly and overly dry.

The last item I had time for was the Gluten-Free bread mix. This was the mix I was most excited for. Relatively, I think I've eaten a decent amount of gluten-free bread products in my day and most of them were pretty awful. This bread, however, tremendously exceeded my expectations. This loaf of bread was easy to assemble, a breeze to bake and crazy good. The texture and crumb was more similar to a normal loaf of bread than all other gluten-free products I've put in my mouth. I would make a sandwich with this bread.

My time in the kitchen was most appreciated. I now feel as though I can form coherent thoughts or suggestions to customers calling in with questions. I still have a massive amount to learn though...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Weekend & Backyard Escapade

Saturday I was able to attend the Norwich Farmers Market for the first time since moving to the Upper Valley. I'd heard good things about the food and vendors and was not disappointed. Vegetables, scratch baked goods, local cheeses and grass-feed meats, unique jewelry and honey abounded.

I managed to restrict myself to a few essential items. I was most excited about the apple purchase. I bought a bag of Macoun apples. The apple-man said they out sell MacIntosh apples 3:1. I'd never heard of them before but Wikipedia says they are a cross between MacIntosh and Black Jersey apples. They are mighty good and crunchy.

After the Farmer's market trip, black bean burger making commenced. I very closely followed this recipe. For dinner, I ate a freshly packed black bean burger with KAF Flax Seed bread and roasted butternut squash.

Sunday afternoon I decided to venture out into the great unknown. I walked out the back door and into the forest that is my backyard. (Alee-I thought of you the entire time. Wish you were here hiking with me!)

Despite that I really had no idea where I was going, there was no trail and I've never hiked solo before, everything went well. All things considered it's pretty amazing I didn't get lost.

Tree down. I wish this picture better illustrated how massive these stumps are.

Then out of nowhere, there was a clearing with a small path that lead me to a road which took back into town. Success!

Fall foliage is coming!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Desk at King Arthur Flour

Today marks my 9th day of employment at the great King Arthur Flour. Thus far I've trained in dealing with customer service, answering questions on the baker's hotline, responding on the baker's live chat, feeding and preparing the sourdough starter and baking in the test kitchen. Additionally, my group is responsible for maintaining & interacting with a couple social medias such as Facebook and Twitter. For now, I still cringe slightly every time my phone rings, as I never know what lies the other side. I very frequently bombard my co-workers with questions and frantic pleas. I applaud them for not killing me yet.

Because my employment at King Arthur represents my first real job, I thought I should document this moment by sharing some photos of my desk.

My name badge. Complete with a KAF magnet. I would also like to take this moment to relay that my initials are K.A.F. King Arthur Flour's initials are also K.A.F. We're twins- destined to be together.

My complimentary bi-weekly loaf of bread. However, I will say I have come home with 3 loaves of bread (Rye, Flax Seed and Organic Miche) and some multi-grain pancakes since I started. I either need to begin an all-carb diet or quickly develop a mass of friends. The Baking Sheet magazine pictured above is a bi-monthly magazine King Arthur produces loaded with recipes and luscious images to drool over.

Just a couple of my written resources. Most baker's wedge 5-6 commonly used baking books in their space to use as references. Another constant tool is the KAF website. I probably spent 30 hours looking at all the pages last week and still haven't covered everything.

Here is my first bag of King Arthur flour! I chose White Whole Wheat because I've never had the opportunity to play with one before. I'm plotting with some recipes to experiment.

As I near the end of my two-week employment streak, I am pleased to say I thoroughly enjoy working at King Arthur. Happy Baking everyone!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Welcome to Vermont

My mom and I survived the 25 hour car ride (barely) and I've safely arrived at my new home in Vermont. My host family (I've decided that's what I'm going to call the family that lives below my apartment) helped me unload my car when we pulled up to the house and fed us a welcome dinner. They are a very friendly couple with a younger son still in middle school.

My mom stuck around for about a week to help me unpack and set-up my living space. I've got a huge bedroom, an enormous queen-sized bed, walk-in closet and a TV. I haven't hung very many picture frames or done much decorating. Mostly because I'm not very good at that type of stuff and I'm hoping it will just magically happen over time.

My living room area is mostly unfurnished and I'm on the hunt for a cheap love-seat and desk to fill some space. I found an awesome green paisley love-seat at a local consignment shop but my mom wouldn't let me buy it. She thought it was hideous. I thought it was beautiful. Anyway, I just need to do some rummaging.

This is the driveway with my car parked outside. Mostly just take notice of the trees. All the trees seem to loom over everything here. Lots and lots of trees. I've already heard people talking about the "foliage season" coming and to prepare for gazillions of tourists. I feel kind of privileged to be a resident and not a tourist.

This the everything store (and only store) in Norwich. Their motto is "If we don't have it, you don't need it". Dan & Whit's carries groceries, cookingware, clothing, shoes, paint, hardware, office supplies, gardening equipment and anything else you can dream of buying. I have already ridden my bike here several times to pick-up some items I forgot.

This is a poor picture of the Post Office in Norwich. Like everything in New England, the office is cute and quaint. And also directly connected to a small cafe and a hair salon.

Baking time! This it King Arthur Flour store itself. People come to the retail store to purchase baking equipment, supplies, mixes, flour, bread, ingredients and other miscellaneous baking products.

The first building in this picture is the Baking Education Center. The BEC teaches baking classes to kids, adults, novice and professional bakers. There is a class for virtually anybody. The second building is the retail store.

This is the building I actually work in daily. This facility is a brief jaunt up the road from the retail store and baking center. I've completed my first two days of work yesterday and today and I feel like they went pretty well. I definitely have a lot to learn, but my co-workers are very friendly and willing to help. Most of them are experienced bakers and hold an incredible wealth of knowledge. I haven't destroyed anything yet. Just give me some time.

This is a church in Norwich - typical New England.

Lastly, this is the Norwich library. I haven't been inside yet, but I hope to be joining a book club soon.

Vermont is certainly different than the Midwest, but so far the transition has been fairly painless. I'm attending a church this Sunday in hopes of meeting a couple new people as potential friends. Tomorrow night I am having dinner with a co-worker and her family! She and I started together and I've really enjoyed having another clueless person around. Will be nice to start getting to know some people!