Category Archives: bread

Cozy and Baking

I got on a roll today in the kitchen, and made a huge happy mess. I really don’t mind cleaning up a kitchen – I especially like it when someone is cooking and I can just do the dishwashing for them. If I could be two people, I could cook up a storm as one GJ, and the other of me would gladly wash and dry and wipe counters. Doing all the jobs is complicated. I won’t get to bed early tonight!


And I won’t have time to tell you about everything I cooked. Just the bread, for which I give credit to Jody. I read her blog post about sourdough baking, and it stirred again in me the urge to bake some chewy loaf and fill the house with that amazing aroma.

I glanced at the clock and saw that I had just enough time to start and complete a bread project before bedtime, so I jumped up and opened the freezer, scooped some yeast into a bowl and started pulling out of my memory the beginnings of a batch that would make two loaves.

 

Eventually I ended up with a potato-rye sponge, and after it rose a few minutes I added enough wheat flour and other goodies to make a stretchy dough that rose further in front of the wood stove. I was using Giusto’s Pumpernickel Rye flour.

A couple of years ago Soldier son gave me a pizza stone and I remembered just in time to get it out of the cupboard and use it to give the loaves an even chewier crust. They turned out so big, I think three round loaves might have been even nicer.


Because of the kitchen mess I ran out of time to post the photos of everything I made, and I’m not even getting all the cleanup done. But I did take time to slice off the heel of one loaf and try it out. Success!

Tomorrow I’ll have to revisit the world of sourdough, too.

Happy Marketing

 


The only task I was determined to complete today was a shopping trip to a grocery store in the next town. The establishment is combination of neighborhood grocery, natural food store, and international market, and the kind of store I go into with a list of five items (like today) and after exploring and discovering up and down the aisles I leave with two big bags full of good finds. Oh, they also have a gift shop in one corner! I could spend an hour right there, browsing for the gift I wish I’d been diligent to make myself.


As I wheeled my cart in the door I was already fairly elated, having just encountered the budding vine outside — and that was after I had brilliantly noticed the jewelry store next door and got my watch battery replaced. I’d been carrying it around in my purse for a couple of months — surprising how much lighter I felt, getting it back on my wrist instead.

Maybe I was so smart, and elated, partly because of all the caffeine I’d been imbibing on my morning off from the gym. Besides the shopping trip, I did have in the back of my mind the idea of thoroughly vacuuming several rooms in the house. The day’s not over, so who can tell….

My favorite place to shop carries items that I can’t get any longer at Trader Joe’s (Ezekiel 4:9 bread) or other grocery stores (Roastaroma tea) and some standard items at great discount (obscure brands of olive oil). And, I admit, some just plain weird things.

I often get bogged down in the kitchen aisle, looking at cute European utensils including my downfall, knives. This time I paid $2 for the tea strainer to replace our old one that is all mangled and rusty.

I had even been sharp enough to remember to bring in my reusable shopping bags. It does seem to me that the checkers at this store are a little less warm when I don’t. It all comes of living in the kind of place where people take their Wine Country Vacations.

Another thing I like about my market is that they never have tacky holiday displays. Today I didn’t notice the window until I had loaded my bags and was back in my car. So I got out again to mark the advent of spring behind the cigarettes. Happy March!

Bread with Sorghum

I made some more bread this week. The bread pans and dough hook were still in hiding, but I enjoyed the kneading, and the free-form loaves do look more rustic, even if they are a bit problematic for B. when making his lunch in the mornings.

This time I used a lot less oil and sugar, and for flour I added some oat and sorghum to the mix. Sorghum? I picked up a small bag of the stuff somewhere, sometime, toward the goal of always-increasing variety in the diet. I didn’t really know where sorghum comes from, but while the dough was rising I read on the bag that it is a grain. This morning I read more about it online and find that it has been used for a long time by humans, more in other parts of the world than here in the U.S., but is gaining popularity here, too.

When it was time to put the loaves into the oven I quickly tried to think of what styles of decorative cuttings I’d seen on commercial artisan breads, but it was too late to do a good job of being creative in that department. So far, my experiment shows that the simple and traditional architecture is nicer.

I have a dear friend N. who is about my age. Neither of us gets to make bread the way we used to 20 or 30 years ago, when The Tassajara Bread Book was one of our bread bibles. Tonight I talked with her on the phone and told her about making bread twice in one week. She was surprised, and said, “You must be avoiding something you should be doing instead.”

That’s one way of seeing it, and how wonderful to have a friend who understands me! Another aspect of the phenomenon is that breadmaking is a relatively small and particular task that I know how to do. None of the little decisions about how closely to follow the recipe comes with very many options, and if the whole batch is ruined for some reason it wouldn’t have much consequence. Baking a loaf or two of bread takes only a few hours, and makes me feel homey, useful, and accomplished.

The tasks I am “avoiding,” on the other hand, consist of three whole rooms, each of which will require at least a day’s worth of work, consisting of one hard decision after another about whether to keep one item or who among my friends, or among thrift shops, might want  another one. If I keep it, how will I store it so I can find it? Etc. Everyone knows how that works.

Now how did I end up talking about sorting junk when I started with homemade bread? The subject is like the clutter itself, creeping in when you are busy doing doing good work. This next week is my chance to tackle one of those rooms, where I hope to lodge a wedding guest if I can clear off the bed. And this afternoon I found both my dough hook and my loaf pans, so it’s even possible I might be inspired to make bread again, too.

Bread for Sanity’s Sake

Many things I do are probably downright irresponsible and illogical. Like making bread and blogging about it, when large areas of the house are still scary to venture into because of the piles of this and that tottering around you. Just fixing that one many-faceted problem should take priority over any optional activities, but there’s more.
A party is being given for B. this Saturday, for which actual cleaning would be in order, and maybe hanging some balloons in those places where we still don’t have pictures back up on the wall for several reasons. I don’t have all my wedding garments ready or chosen or shopped for, for my own son’s wedding that is in two weeks. The church garden needs some more things planted, so they’ll be ready for the big festival we have in two months, and my garden wants weeding. Grandchildren are having birthdays for which I mustn’t forget to send the gifts I do have around here somewhere.
If I say that some things must be done just to keep me sane, I hope it will make people think twice before they call me to account for what is probably laziness. In any case, I’m glad I did make bread yesterday. I tried to come up with a sensational title to this post, seeing how breadmaking is so fundamental and important an activity in the history of the world. And I love to make bread, though I haven’t for a year or more…can’t remember the last time I took out the yeast. When God gives me a summer of fog, and goosebumps in my own house, perhaps I could make a case for it even being logical to make bread.
Any bread would do, the mood I was in, so I found this card in my recipe box, and rye flour in a drawer. I started by mixing a sponge in my Kitchen Aid, and would have done most of the kneading in there, too, but I couldn’t find my dough hook. It must be in one of those boxes I haven’t unpacked. So I initiated my new quartz countertops in a monochromatic kneading session that only hurt my wrists a little bit.
 
I stayed up late last night waiting to take this bread out of the oven, and I’d have blogged about it right then if my camera battery hadn’t been used up. The plan was to go right to bed as soon as I turned off the stove. But it didn’t seem long after I set the loaves on my new baking stone and shut the door before B. called from upstairs to ask what that “strong” smell was; he hoped the bread wasn’t burning.
No, it wasn’t, but when I looked inside, I saw that it was browning more quickly than I expected. Must be the convection oven, or the amount of sugar in the dough. I put some foil loosely over the top and let it stay in the full 45 minutes, during which time the whole house filled with the heady anise smell on top of the plain wonderful bread smell.
When I did take it out, I must have been in the middle of reading something interesting; anyway, I didn’t go to bed, and before I knew it, the bread was cool enough to slice and eat, which I did. I’m glad to report that it wasn’t as exquisite eating as it was intoxicating to the olfactory senses, or I’d have gone to bed really late, with a tummy ache.
It’s a very nice bread, but a little too sweet and rich for my taste. I’ll have to make some adjustments if I use the recipe again. This morning I hope to take one loaf to a friend. Thank You, Lord!