I will attempt just about any recipe that you set in front of me, provided of course that it sounds interesting, and I have finally gained enough experience that a new recipe will usually turn out pretty well. I have developed so much confidence in the kitchen that now I've even acquired the disturbing habit of often trying out a new recipe on company.
One area of cooking that I really want to get better at, and really develop a feel for, is bread baking. I've got my standard sandwich loaf all wrapped up, but I also love a good chewy and crusty loaf, and that's what I want to gain the ability to bake.
On a recent evening that company was coming, I decided to combine my bad habit of new recipes with my doughy aspirations for a double-whammy of inexperience and the unknown. Fortunately, even with some small deviations from the recipe (accidental) everything turned out very well, and these were my best loaves yet.
I mean really. Look at that crumb structure! Look at the lovely air pockets! The lightly browned, crusty-chewy crust! I was so proud of it, I called my mom to describe it. I got off the phone quickly as our friends C & B arrived, and we sat down to this bread with creamy European-style butter and butternut squash soup. We chatted for awhile, and then had a second course of baked pork chops stuffed with prosciutto and asiago, and ended it all with caramel cake and coffee. The next day we took the rest of our soup, bread and butter over to mom's for a nice lunch. I'm still proud of that bread, and it's long gone. Not forever though...I'm making more this week to go with a broccoli soup recipe that's been brewing in my mind.
Pugliese bread, from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I'm not going to post the recipe here, because I did have some accidental variations. I'm going to bake it again the right way, see how much difference that makes, and then post whichever I like better.