Life as a PhD student at MIT isn't easy. Endless problem sets, exams, sponsor visits and committee meetings result in many sleepless nights. Your research work becomes your life and you feel guilty for every moment spent not working.

One of my guilty pleasures is baking. Whenever I need to celebrate or drown my sorrows, which occurs frequently as a graduate student, I find a new recipe. Over the past couple of years, I have subjected many of my friends and neighbors to my concoctions. They haven't seen anything yet!

For Christmas, I received the Flour cookbook. For those of you who don't know what Flour is, I feel sorry for you. Flour is a fantastic bakery and cafe located close to MIT. I'll often stop off here on my way home after a bad day for a sweet, sugary pick-me-up.

After receiving the cookbook, I decided with all my copious free time (yeah right) that I was in need of another project. My mission is to bake every recipe from the Flour cookbook before I graduate. Now the race is on.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Winter Officer's Retreat = Epic Baking Challenge

Pie crusts in progress.
Life as a graduate student can sometimes be overwhelming.  Actually, it's overwhelming most of the time.  The past couple of weeks, make that months, have been one of those overwhelming times.  Lots of random things to take care of and no time to post about my latest baking adventures.  I'm finally getting around to it now.  I guess a month late is better than never!

Ahmed making the blueberry pie filling.
If you know me, you likely know that I'm really involved with student activities at my dorm Sidney-Pacific.  At the end of January, we host a retreat for all of the 50+ officers involved in the government.  As one of the retreat planners, I thought it would be a good idea to bake all the desserts.  I thought it would just take me a couple hours, I'd be able knock a couple recipes off my list, and the officers would be able to enjoy some home-baked treats.  Unfortunately, as usually happens in research and in life, I grossly underestimated the time required.
Midnight Chocolate Cakes cooling

For the retreat, I decided to make the Double Two-Apple Pie on page 203, the Blueberry Lemon Pie on page 217, the Plum Clafoutis on page 252, and the Midnight Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate Buttercream on page 163. Not an easy task, so I decided to start early on Friday night with the pie crusts (Pate Brisee I on page 92.  This portion of the baking was actually easier than I expected, it only took me 30 mins to make the dough for 2 pie crusts and the mess was pretty minimal. 

Double two-apple pie ready for baking.
Since the retreat and the baking was all going to happen on the same day, I decided to recruit a baking helper.  Ahmed was lured in with promises of sweet treats and only two hours work.  We worked away for four hours in the big kitchen at SP to prepare the dessert for the retreat.  I wouldn't have made it without Ahmed and Mirna's help.  As it was, I just scraped out 20 mins to clean up and finish preparing for the retreat. 

Overall the results were delicious and the house government walked away from the retreat dinner high on buttery, sugary goodness.  They didn't even seem to notice the the snafu with the chocolate chunks in the icing (they were there by design, I swear!).  Overall, recipes approved (especially the blueberry pie!) and five recipes to take off my list.  Epic baking challenge completed!

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