I made a cake! Except I didn’t mean to make a cake. I meant to make bread. Please compare my photo to the photos from the recipe I worked from.
Can someone please explain to me why all my bread turns out dense enough to brain cattle? You could use my olive loaves as siege weapons. It’s like yeast has this malicious vendetta against me, this unfounded orneriness. What have I ever done to it? I’ve tried so many ways to befriend it: the temperature of the water, the various proofing, the sugar, the rises. And always my bread ends up so dense it is about to sink into itself into a sort of bread black hole. That said, my parents can’t stop eating it, but we’ve already discussed their foibles.
Anyway, this obviously means I have to go through the hardship of going to a bread-baking workshop, possibly one of those up in wine country in some gorgeous faux-rustic cottage with an enormous gleaming teaching kitchen where you lounge around sipping wine and chatting with your mother or riding horses while your baguettes rise. It’s a grand sacrifice, but I’m devoted.
On the other hand, I have begun to master the art of roast chicken, and both the feeling of gaining mastery and the results have been absurdly delicious. I’ve been utilizing Molly Steven’s roasting technique for a cut-up chicken from All About Roasting (yes! She has a new book! And its title is just as dowdy as her other ones, and its results and execution just as profoundly quality!), but started to get rid of those pesky wings and drumsticks and backs and just doing legs whole and breasts, however many I feel like at the mo. Works like a charm. I made her chicken Dijonnaise, a recipe that is basically a spa process for chicken, in which one soaks the chicken in mustard, bathes it in wine, and blankets it with creme fraiche; and also made her chicken pieces with oranges, olives, and apricots, a phenomenal winner.
By the end of my chicken-roasting week I was so lean with protein but bloated with success that I decided to combine the maple-craving I acquire at this time of the year with what I felt was the fundamental grasp of the process, with inspiration from a maple-rosemary ice cream Falko made while I was in New York, which he thought was fine and I couldn’t stop eating (maybe I shouldn’t tease my mother about her odd cravings quite so much).
And it worked.
And I made maple-rosemary glazed chicken with dried apricots, and it was awesome.
And if I can conquer what I felt to be my mediocre skills with meat, then bread, watch out: I will raise you. And bake you. And you will be the fluffiest and the nicest and have beautiful texture and crusts. And you will be my friend and I will call you Bready and then I will toast you. What? Isn’t that what you do to friends? Cut them up and put cheese on them? Maybe I should work on my concept of friendship.
Maple-Rosemary Chicken Pieces with Apricots
6-8 pieces of bone-in skin-on chicken, mixture of breasts and thighs
1/2 cup maple syrup
Tablespoon or a bit more of apple cider vinegar
1 shallot, chopped fine
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh or dried rosemary
Salt and pepper
20 or more dried apricots
Mix together everything but the chicken and the apricots. Place the chicken in a bowl, pour the glaze over it, and toss lightly with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and leave out to marinate at room temperature for up to a couple hours (or as little as a few minutes if you just want to eat as soon as deliciousness can be had) or in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Heat the over to 375 degrees, 350 convection.
Cover a tall-sided baking sheet with aluminum foil, because glazes with sugar, while utterly delectable, tend to burn and caramelize in ways that produce tasty results but immensely frustrating dishes. Scatter the apricots in a single layer, but concentrate them in the middle, so not too many poke out when you place the chicken atop them. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the apricots, and pour any extra glaze over them.
Roast the chicken on a center rack for about twenty minutes on one side, then flip over for twenty minutes on the other side, making sure no pesky apricots try to tag along from the bottom and crisp themselves by flying too close to the sun. Flip them over once more and roast for another five minutes, just to get the perfect color. Molly Stevens recommends 40-45 minutes, and various exercises with taking out smaller pieces and browning the last few minutes in the broiler, but honestly, 45 minutes with this method seemed to work perfectly for me every time. However, do be sure to check that your chicken is done, and not pink. There are various methods for doing so, from meat thermometers to poking a knife in and making sure the juice runs very clear, or just slicing off a thick tip and seeing.
Remove from heat and eat. If you don’t want to be like me and overdose on the maple by making maple-roast butternut squash, you can make butternut squash with orange zest, or mashed sweet potato, or mashed regular potato, or, come one, use your imagination, it’s sweet chicken, it’ll go with anything.