My personal baking tips

They say there are two types of cooks — bakers and chefs. Bakers are generally thought to be methodical and rule-abiding, and they deal mainly in chemistry. Chefs are innovators and risk-takers, and they deal more in physics. I had always thought myself to be more of a chef than a baker (as evidenced by my complete inability to follow a recipe exactly) — but I believe one can learn to bake even if one’s heart sings a main-course song.

I’ve received lots of compliments and inquiries about my baked goods, and I think I’ve managed to put my finger on the specific chef-like risks that I’ve incorporated into my baking practices with great success. (This is not to say I haven’t had MANY failures — I just don’t blog about those!) So here’s a list of some of the specific tweaks I tend to apply to most baking recipes.

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The ducks are laying again

I started trying out duck eggs a couple years ago, since my favorite farmers’ market stand would always sell out of chicken eggs by 8:30 AM. At first I was freaked out (largely because I can’t stand goats’ milk, so I’ve been paranoid to switch animals all willy-nilly!) but I soon discovered that duck eggs are delicious. And they’re also more nutritious in many ways, and they hold up better in baked goods.

So I was extra-thrilled to find out that Madison Market sells duck eggs — I thought I had to get myself to the farmers’ market to enjoy them. Sure, they’re kinda misshapen and weirdly colored, and they don’t even come close to fitting in those cardboard egg trays. But that’s part of their charm!

I think hard-boiled duck eggs are much more flavorful than chicken eggs. (Initially I was worried because the lying, mean Internet made me think they would change color. But, as you’ll note from my photo, hard-boiled duck eggs are just as white and yellow as ever.) And for some reason, chicken egg yolks sometimes gross me out, but duck egg yolks are creamy and rich and wonderful. I also think duck eggs work better in dishes like potato salad.

I’m thrilled that the ducks are back in action — I can finally start incorporating duck eggs into my cooking again! I just enjoyed a lovely snack of a hard-boiled duck egg with Barrique Chardonnay finishing salt — delish!

The Georgian for brunch — perfect eggs

Grant and I recently subscribed to Seattle Metropolitan, just in time for the “Hot Breakfast Spots” issue. While I was frustrated that a bunch of things were reported wrong (like hours of operation and menu items), we were still thrilled to have a good breakfast/brunch guide, since it’s our favorite going-out meal.

We decided to give The Georgian at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel a whirl, since it was caucus day and it was right around the corner. Figuring it’d be swamped with other people who had the same idea, we called ahead to make a reservation. There were all of three tables in the giant English tearoom-styled dining hall, so I guess everyone else caucused hungry? Their loss!

I expected the Georgian to be a bit stuffy and awkward, given that it’s a snooty hotel whose restaurant is usually frequented by top-dollar execs on business travel. But while the atmosphere was a bit stiff, the food more than made up for it — they had a very natural and local menu with lots of organic items, and there were several interesting combos like a lobster chipotle Benedict and some killer omelet additions.

Over Medium, as it should be.But what really wooed me were the eggs. I ordered them “over medium”, which usually means “still totally runny yolks” at most joints. But the Georgian hit the PERFECT balance of egg yolks that are neither runny nor hard and opaque. Plus, I ordered the breakfast flat-iron steak medium rare, and it wasn’t totally cooked to a brown unrecognizable jerky like most breakfast steaks tend to be.

And lastly, the treat. I usually have to avoid sweeter breakfast delights like French toast and waffles, because the carb-tastic options do a number on my blood sugar. Opting for protein-rich selections is the only way I can guarantee the meal will last me more than an hour, sustenance-wise. So I was thrilled, after ordering my steak-eggs-and-hash-browns combo, to spot a little white pot of something baked. It turned out to be a tiny spiced pumpkin bread type coffee cake — just enough sweet treat to let me know I didn’t have to miss out on the fun, without screwing up my protein-heavy intentions.

All in all, this was one of the best brunches I’ve had in a long time. And we go out to brunch a LOT, and we’ve been checking out more and more spots since Seattle Met tipped us off to our options. Best of all, there didn’t seem to be a single error in the magazine’s reporting on this spot — there was a fresh-made juice of the day, there was a great selection, and there were no major surprises or disappointments when it came to hours of operation or menu offerings. And the eggs “over medium” really were over medium. I couldn’t ask for more!