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.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

And the Winner is...

Pears ready for roasting.
I'm slowly getting caught up on documenting my Flour cookbook baking adventures.  This installment is from the end of March and was my most ambitious baking project to date.  I live in Sidney-Pacific Graduate Residence at MIT.  Over the course of the year, the residence hosts a series of competitions for the different halls in the dorm to compete against each other.  It happened that the March competition was right up my alley.  That's right, it was a baking competition.  
Cream infused with hazelnuts

Once I heard what the challenge was, I went straight for my trusty Flour cookbook and picked out 3 recipes sure to impress.  I decided to make the Homemade-Nutella Tart (page 224), the Roasted Pear & Cranberry Crostata (page 237) and the Intense Chocolate Brownies (Page 149).  The recipes were fairly intense, so instead of going out the night before the competition, I spent it in the kitchen whipping up crusts for the tart and crostata. 

Chocolate brownies in the making.
The completed Nutella Tart.
Sunday evening was the main event.  I woke up early on Sunday morning to get the pears started.  According to the cookbook, they needed to be roasted in the oven with ginger for 2 hours.  I was slightly reluctant to do this since ginger has a strong flavor.  I put my faith in Joanne and went ahead with the roasting.  Time would tell if it was the right thing to do.   

Once my pears were roasted, I headed down to the main kitchen in the building to complete my confections.  Some of the other competitors were also there slaving away on their creations.  They had ambitious plans that I was unsure I would be able to beat.  Despite the pressure, I proceeded with my plan.  I started making the homemade Nutella.  Once I smelled the cream I had infused with hazelnuts, I knew the 9th floor (my floor) had a chance in this competitioin.  I spend the rest of the time in the kitchen assembling my tarts, baking the crostata, and making the brownies.  The results were awesome, but could we win?  The answer was yes!  The 9th floor beat out 12 other groups for the victory.  More than that, the Roasted Pear and Cranberry Crostata is the most delicious thing I have ever made.  The ginger that I was so skeptical about was perfect.  I'll definitely be making it again....  If I get the time with research. Thanks Joanne!

The Roasted Pear & Cranberry Crostata.

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