There’s Flour Everywhere

Check off another resolution: the February Cook it 2012 challenge is done! Bread has been baked and our kitchens have been redecorated with flour.

I’m pretty sure you folks are better bakers than I am.   I made a bunch of edible loaves, but nothing was really stellar.  I got pretty close with a loaf of whole wheat bread with flaxseeds and herbs de provence, but the recipe’s not quite there yet.   I think I need to stop baking bread on cold, rainy days  – it doesn’t rise – and I need to get an oven thermometer since all the numbers are all rubbed off my oven dial and estimating isn’t really the best plan for bread-baking.

Look at all this beautiful stuff:

and the links to everyone’s bread posts:

Brioche from Homemade Trade: Aimee, your brioche looks perfect and that cardamom-rose french toast looks divine!

Gluten-Free Bread from Vonnie The Happy Hippie : these loaves look great… can we get a recipe? I’d love to give them a try.

No-Knead Bread & Slow-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta from Adventures of the Kitchen Ninja: Instead of buying an oven thermometer and baking it myself, can you just send me a loaf? It looks so crusty and wonderful.

Rosemary Bread from The Wholesome Epicure: I bet the kitchen smelled pretty wonderful while this was baking…

Rye Bread from My Pantry Shelf:  Reubens on homemade rye bread sound like something we need to be eating, asap.  That watercress soup sounds pretty elegant, too.  Basically, I need to make rye bread.

Sourdough Bread from Grow and Resist: Those pancakes sound really good. I admire your tenacity and I will be coming to your house for bread during the apocalypse.

Sourdough Bread from Oh Briggsy: This post has great information about getting a sourdough starter going. Also this post is hysterical.  I tried making a starter and it very much did not work (though I do have a really wonderful sludgy mess of flour, that’s always charming) so I’m trying again with this method.

Thank you all for cooking along. As usual, it’s really inspiring to see what other people are making.  I can’t wait to see what you guys do with the butter challenge! 

(Stay tuned for Butter Part 2…. post coming soon… )

Cook it! 2012: February Resolution

I think that I should get extra points for blogging at all with our pathetic internet connection.  The little switch on my phone that turns on a personal hotspot implies that I could then be able to use the internet on my computer.  It seems to be more complicated than that. Trying to understand why sometimes the hot spot works perfectly and other times completely doesn’t work at all is like trying to understand the meaning of life, or god, or any of the other great mysteries of the universe.  Strange theories have been circulating about the weather, the time of day, the position of the phone, and possible government conspiracies to keep my boundless widsom from reaching the masses.

I did a little internet dance and I’m wearing my lucky purple shirt, so cross your fingers and let’s see if this works.

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COOK IT 2012! FEBRUARY RESOLUTION: BAKE BREAD

Last month I spent my free time covered in semolina flour, making batch after batch of fresh pasta.  It was deliciously messy, every bite of it.  This month, I’m focusing on bread baking.  I think I’ve mentioned on here before that I’m a horrible baker  (I made chocolate chip cookies the other day, and on my first batch, the bottoms were completely black and the tops were still semi-raw.  Nice, right?)  I really want to improve these skills.  I can make an amazing seville orange marmalade. I know how to cure my own bacon and grind my own sausage.  I can do remarkable things with butternut squash and kale.  Yet somehow if you involve flour and the oven, I’m lost.

I’ve seen all these great things on the internet about making wild sourdough bread, beautiful whole grain sandwich breads, and all kinds of other special techniques.  I knew that before I could attempt anything like this, I had to be able to bake a plain loaf of boring sandwich bread with absolutely no fancy bells or whistles.  I don’t usually do this, but I ended up just googling “white bread recipe” and going with one of the first ones that came up.  It used white flour and what seemed like a lot of refined sugar, but I just went with it anyway.  (The nice thing about experimenting with bread is that it’s cheap.   A batch of failed jam can set you back, oh, $20, but a failed loaf of bread is just a couple bucks, and can easily be turned into breadcrumbs, bread pudding or croutons if it doesn’t come out quite right.)

I’m not necessarily all that enamored with the idea of breads.  I don’t eat very much of it and I don’t really crave it the way I think some people do.  A wonderful thing happened while I was working on this project, though.  Part of the reason I wanted to do these resolutions is that spending time in the kitchen working on a project is very relaxing for me.  I may not actually care about bread all that much, but forcing myself to stop running around like a crazy person and spent a morning at home in the kitchen was a huge victory.  It reminded me of yoga class, when the instructor tells you to relax and clear your mind, to let go of all the stressful things you’re thinking about.  I tried to quiet my thoughts and let my mind settle in to the motion of kneading, the smell of yeast.  I realized: It’s amazing how hard it is to stop thinking running errands, working, chores, bills…  It kind of worked though.  I spent the morning at home.  I baked bread.  Everything stopped for a few hours.  It was great.  Right now, even, sitting here writing.  I have work I should maybe be doing – my greenhouse got totally destroyed in a windstorm two nights ago, and I really need to go put it back up and work on starting tomato plants.  It’s nice to take some time and say:

……….yeah, i’m not doin that now.

maybe later.

Strange how deciding to learn something new turns into a meditation on laziness and procrastination, right?

Whole Grain White Bread, adapted from the Amish White Bread recipe here

Makes: 2 loaves

Cook Time: 2 Hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2/3 c. white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbs. dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 4 c. bread flour
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and the water.  If your kitchen is cold, it may help to warm the bowl in the oven a bit.  (My kitchen is freezing).  Stir in the yeast and set aside to proof.  When the mixture is ready it will look slightly foamy.  Mix the salt and the oil into the yeast mixture.  Mix in the flour, one cup at a time.  Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until it’s smooth and starting to feel springy.  Put the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a wet cloth.  Set it somewhere warm to rise for an hour or so, or way longer if you’re in my freezing kitchen.  When the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl.  Punch it down and knead it for a few minutes.  Divide the dough in half and form it into loaves.  Put them in oiled 9×5” loaf pans.  Let the dough rise again, until it’s 1” above the pans.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  The loaf will be nicely browned on top and have a pleasant hollow-sounding thump when you tap the bottom of the pan.

For the more visual people….

Yes, one of the reasons that my baking suffers might be that I’m using a liquid measuring cup for dry ingredients. The kitchen smelled incredible at this point.  I’m always struck by how aromatic yeast is. I panicked when I checked my dough after an hour and it hasn’t risen at all.  Not one bit.  In the end, I had to turn my oven on to 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn it off, and then put the covered dough in the oven with the door slightly cracked.  That’s how cold my kitchen is.

And at last…

I want to tell you that I eat lots of bread and jam . . . 

Warm bread and peach jam is certainly very luxurious…  but what I really eat is this:

Is a recipe really required?  Toad-in-a-hole, eggs-in-a-basket, whatever you want to call them, they’re my favorite breakfast.  My dad referred to them as “sewer-lids” all through my childhood, which is charming.  I still wonder if this is some kind of reference to his upbringing in New Jersey.  J. decided that eggs-in-a-basket should be named “pregnant toast,” which I think is pretty hysterical.

Oh, one thing- melt some shredded cheese on top to make them extra delicious.

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THE DETAILS:

If you want to be included in the great pasta-roundup, make sure to get your posts to me by February 15th.

The deadline for this month’s challenge is March 15, at 12:00 PM PST.

Happy Baking!

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Do it! Projects for 2012

I was just writing out some kitchen resolutions for 2012: things I want to learn how to do, things I want to get better at doing, and things that I really enjoy and want to make sure that I keep doing. I realized I have a perfect year of cooking laid out, with one big project for every month, things like…. learning how to make fresh pasta (I’ve only done it a handful of times in the past) and learning how to make cheese (never done it!).  It’s a year of from-scratch-do-it-yourself-local-fresh-inspired-homestead-kitchen skills.

In 2010, I loved reading the Hungry Tigress’ Can Jam, and learning how to make bacon with the Charcutepalooza last year was absolutely spectacular.  I want to continue challenging myself to tackle new projects and skills, keep my cooking inspired, and my kitchen and pantry filled with amazing treats.

Instead of focusing on one specific technique for a year, I’m planning a year of twelve different skills, mainly centered around making foods from scratch that I may not currently be doing, or that I want to do more of, especially thinking about those last few ingredients that I still buy at a store, even though we supply most of our own vegetables, canned goods and fresh eggs.  I’ll be posting the results here, with recipes and photos like usual, but some tutorials for people who may have little or no experience with that particular area of cooking.

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If you’re interested in turning this into more of a group project, e-mail me by January 15, 2012 at thejamgirl@gmail.com and I’ll get something organized.

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I’m not interested in spending a lot of money on fancy equipment and ingredients or doing work that doesn’t make me all warm and fuzzy inside.  It should be fun.  These ideas are also about consciously budgeting time to do things I enjoy, so that in October, I don’t look in the pantry and wistfully think about how I wish I’d made some time to pick blackberries for jam.

P.S. Grow it Cook it Can it turns one year old today, and it’s so much fun looking back at the cooking projects from this year.  Thanks you for reading and I’m excited for another year of flowers, jam, tomatoes, prosciutto, pickles, chickens and all that other stuff that’s so much fun.

Orange Pecan Tea Bread

I’m in upstate New York right now, visiting my parents for the first time in a great while.  If I ever decide to become a 400 lb. woman I will come here to do the dirty work…  My dad is a loves to cook and my mom is a fantastic baker. Even though we’re supposed to be in the New Years Resolution phase of the holiday season, the shelves are still stacked with cookies, chocolates, marzipan, and other delicious treats. Given this situation, and the fact that now she’s wandering around the house talking about making tiramisu this evening, I either need to put on my sneakers and go for a run or maybe just buy some bigger pants.

Today I had warm Orange Pecan Tea Bread waiting for me when I woke up. It’s an adaptation of a recipe from Cooking Light, and a great way to use up some marmalade. My mom used the seville orange marmalade I made last winter, but you could use any type you have on hand.  She didn’t bother with the glaze (see step 4 below), it was delicious without it.  The citrus and buttermilk in this recipe will brighten up any winter day, no matter how snowy.

I am a terrible baker, unlike my mother. I can’t be bothered with things like recipes and measuring. I don’t even own a tablespoon (I may have once, but I lost it).   The concept of preheating an oven is foreign to me, it’s either “hot” or “off.” Lasagna is ready when it’s bubbly and the cheese has nice golden brown spots, not when it’s been in the oven at 350 for an hour and fifteen minutes (this is a guess, I really am not sure how long I cook lasagna for).  I often get angry at recipes for trying to tell me what to do. The nerve of these people…

If, unlike me, you can follow instructions, here’s  the original recipe from Cooking Light (December 2009 issue):

Orange-Pecan Tea Bread

  • 7.9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 c.)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans, toasted
  • 3 tbs. 1% low-fat milk
  • 3 tbs. canola oil
  • 3 tbs. orange marmalade
  • 2 tsp. grated orange rind
  • 2 large eggs
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs. fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped pecans, toasted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Combine granulated sugar and next 7 ingredients (through eggs), stirring with a whisk; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
  3. Spoon batter into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring until smooth.  Drizzle glaze over bread, and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp. pecans.  Yield: 14 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Calories: 164; Fat: 5.4 g; Protein: 3g Carb: 26.6g; Fiber: 0.6g; Chol: 26 mg; Iron: 1 mg; Sodium: 136 mg; Calc: 46 mg.