Showing posts with label Cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cooking. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bread Baking

I'm on a new kick…braiding bread!  A couple months ago, I did some extensive research (thank you, Pinterest), and I have come up with a pretty fail-proof method of bread braiding and shaping.  I thought I would share it and my lovely bread loaves.  The recipe listed here makes 4 loaves, but you can halve or quarter (or double, you crazy person).  The amounts are thanks to the cookbook The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (I've got the link below).  The actual method of making the bread is an odd mix of my mother's recipe and my own trial-and-error.
The bread dough, before it rose.

1.  Put 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast into 1 cup of lukewarm water into your Kitchen Aid mixer (or a large bowl).  Add enough flour to make a dough that is similar to pancake batter.  Let sit until bubbles form and go about your business (I decided what baking music I wanted to listen to ).  It was such a warm, humid day today that this only took about 5 minutes.  On a windy winter day in January, it's going to take a lot longer.
The loaves, about to be covered before they rise.

2.  Once batter is bubbly, mix in 5 teaspoons of salt, 4 tablespoons of oil (I used coconut), and 4 tablespoons of honey dissolved in 4 1/2 cups of water.  Add flour (I used spelt) until you have a very wet dough (sorry, I can't really be any more specific than that).  Now for the enjoyably messy part.

3.  Sprinkle flour all over fairly large surface (I use the kitchen table) and dump all that sticky dough onto the flour.  Then, keep adding more flour as you vigorously knead until the dough is springy and elastic.  Oil a clean bowl and dump all the dough in and cover with a wet towel to rise until it's doubled in size and when you poke it, the hole doesn't fill in.
…So you can see the braids.

4.  Once this happens, you can do one of two things.  The "real" thing to do next is to punch the dough down and let it rise once more.  However, I was in a slap-dash mood, so I just punched the dough down and shaped it right away.  Divide that dough into four equal sections.  Then, roll each of the sections into an oblong shape and divide into four snake-like pieces (the strips should be about 1" thick).  Pinch the ends of all of the strips together and gently cross the strips over each other (doesn't need to be any particular pattern).  It helps to grease the heck out of your hands.  If your braided dough ended up a lot longer than will fit in your bread pan, just fold the edges under.  Let sit again until the dough has risen up to the edges of the bread pan.  Just chuck the pans in the oven at 350 for about an hour and you're done.  And voila!  You have gorgeous braided bread.   Oh, and then cut yourself a gorgeous, warm slice and spread with butter and honey.  I'm eating a slice right now as I type.
All finished!

Now about this cookbook-it's really great.  It's a really handy book to have on hand and the pretty woodcuts just add to the general loveliness of the book.  The instructions are very extensive and you will have no doubt as to what you are doing when you use a recipe out of this cookbook.  There is everything in here from the classic whole-wheat bread dough recipe that I loosely used to rice-sesame crackers, to spicy currant bread.  I've been inspired by this book to do some more interesting bread baking and braiding!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Toast Rack

Today was the retirement community sale that happens every spring.  Each year, the people moving to the home donate stuff to the sale.  The stuff tends to be fabulous vintage finds.  I happened to find the most charming little device- a toast rack!  Now you may be asking, "What on earth is the purpose of a toast rack?"  Why to serve your toast on, of course!  Except, that the toast would have the unfortunate propensity to get soggy and cold, which is just plain nasty.

So, I'm going to use this cunning little device as a letter holder.  I have several friends who send me letters and I thought what a fun way to store letters this would be!

Here are several pictures that I took of it.  What do you think?  Won't this be handy?

I'll be back tomorrow with a review of Unpunished.  Yes!  I finally got around to reading the dang thing and it was a wonderful read.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Cookbook Series

I don't have any book reviews at the moment because I am about 30 pages into three different books.  I hope to get a lot of reading done today.  However, I am still reading, thinking about, and cooking from cookbooks!  I thought I would review one of my favorite cookbook series.  They're not well-known out of my specific culture, but they are worth seeking out.  I am a Mennonite  (a whole other topic for a whole other place and time).  However, among many things, Mennonites value cooking.  Back in the 70s, two Mennonite women decided to write a cookbook about cooking food that was sustainable and was chock-full of recipes submitted by people all over the globe. This cookbook was called More-With-Less.  Several years later, in the 90s, two other women added to the series and wrote Extending the Table- a cookbook about eating world food.  The series was completed in 2005 and was about eating in-season, sustainable food.  I grew up with these cookbooks and they still have a special place on my list of favorite cookbooks.

I think that my favorite is Simply in Season.  More-with-Less's extreme obsession with calories and low-fat seems quite dated and Extending the Table sometimes calls for ingredients that we don't keep on hand all the time.  But Simply in Season, with its contemporary but delicious recipes is pretty much perfect.  I also like occasionally coming across a familiar name in the contributions.  There is a chapter for each season, with recipes like Gazpacho in the Summer and Maple Glazed Parsnips in the Winter.  I turn to this cookbook quite a bit in the summer.  This cookbook also has the added bonus of having an ingredient index.  So, if you're being bombarded with spinach, you can look up spinach recipes in the back.

While I don't use it frequently, Extending the Table has introduced me to some delicious recipes.  The kimchi is one of my favorites and Shanghai Ham is also wonderful.  This cookbook is a great way to learn a little bit about different countries and it's a good place to turn to to replicate restaurant dishes.

I think that I have the most memories and associations tied to More-With-Less.  There are some basic recipes like mayonnaise and french dressing that are perfect.  And, while low-fat is stressed, there is nothing nasty or flavorless about the food.  Even the recipe for Wheat Germ Balls is delicious!

I was surprised and glad that these cookbooks can be found on amazon.  I recommend them for anybody who likes to cook and wants a little taste of another culture.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chocolate Eclairs and Mad Hungry

All the ingredients laid out.  This recipe was perfect because it used
14 eggs!  Our hens have gone into laying overdrive.
Today I have a cookbook recommendation and some food pictures for you.
Just a bit of the mess that ensued.
Our church was having a bake sale.  I volunteered to make chocolate eclairs and, boy, were they tedious to make...I mean, good.  First, you make a cream puff dough, made of melted butter, water, flour, and salt.  Then you squeeze the dough through a pastry bag and end up covering every surface and large sections of your hair in dough.  Then you pause, disgusted, and start just spooning the dough onto the cookie sheets.  After the puffs are baked, they are sliced and left to cool while you go make a custard that for some aggravating reason gets filled with little cooked egg lumps.  After straining the custard, you cool it for an hour, while you pull out your double boiler and cook a chocolate ganache.  After the chocolate ganache comes within seconds of burning and sticking because you are too busy reading a hilarious autobiography, you take that off and let it cool.  Now it's time to fill those eclairs.  First you fill one half heaping full with that lovely custard that turned out gorgeously, then put the top cap on and drizzle chocolate ganache over all.
The gorgeous eclairs...all 22 of them.

After I took a bite of that perfectly airy, elegant eclair, it was all worth it and I found myself forgetting all the work and the fact that every single dish in the kitchen was dirty as I smiled and licked my fingers.
Yes, the subtitle is Feeding Men and Boys.
I have no idea why.  However, the recipes are for anybody.
These delicious eclairs came from the fabulous book Mad Hungry.  It's written by Lucinda Scala Quinn and it's a book on cooking hearty family food instead of eating out, but really anybody.  Her recipes are well-written, look delicious, and taste delicious (at least the ones I've had).  The photographs are pretty and aid in making me even hungrier for the delicious recipes.  If you're a voracious cookbook reader, you most definitely need to buy this book.  If you're not, then please just go to the library and check the book out.  You might surprise yourself and end up purchasing a copy...

And every. single. chocolate. eclair. sold.  I'm actually a little sad about that.  I was hoping for a little treat this afternoon...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reading Cookbooks

It's odd, I know.  But it's a whole other kind of reading.  Not the kind of reading with a beginning, middle, and end, with a plot and an overall message, but I still love it.
The 1964 edition.  This book is almost too tome-ish
to read for fun.  But, seriously, it has pretty much any recipe
that you can think of.
It's the kind of reading you do when you're feeling tired or in need of some inspiration.  Reading cookbooks is perfect for those days when you're all out of books, or don't feel up to sitting down and giving your full attention to a story.
A very amusing read.

I particularly like vintage cookbooks.  They all seem to tell a story about what people were doing in a certain era.  It's fascinating how much you can learn about people through their food.  I wonder what people will say in 50 years when they look at cookbooks from our era.
Cookbooks are fun to read on several levels.  First, they can be read in light of a history book, if you're reading a vintage cookbook.  Seriously?  Tuna jelled in a mold with lime jello and cabbage?!  (I am not making that up.)  They can also be read as a sort of current events book, if you're reading a modern cookbook.  For instance, think about reading a paleo cookbook or a celebrity cookbook.  Then of course, there's the inspiration that comes from reading cookbooks.  I love going through the vintage cake sections and reading about new kinds of cooking.
Just a little contrast between the above vintage
cookbooks and a modern cookbook.
The recipes in this cookbook are delicious, by the way.

And finally, I love the thought of people from all different time periods writing cookbooks so that the concept of how we eat food could be changed just a little for the better.

A picture of cookbook from which my pretzel recipe came.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rye Soft Pretzels and Fresh Stack of Books

Yesterday I got a lovely, huge stack of books.  I was starting to feel slightly panicked at the thought of my dwindling book supply, but managed to get to the library that Monday afternoon.  I got a fantastic stack and, if they are worth it, I'll review some of them in the upcoming weeks.

On the way home, I suddenly got a hankering for doing a little baking.  So, I pulled out some cookbooks and eventually settled on Good the Grain's (a fabulous cookbook, by the way) rye soft pretzels.  They looked so delicious and I could just imagine curling up in the evening with a hot soft pretzel and a little pile of books around me.

The kitchen table, dirty from rolling out pretzels,
that somehow managed to look pretty in the afternoon sunlight.
I think that these were some of the best soft pretzels that I have ever sunk my teeth into.  They were just a little tangy on the outside, from the baking soda bath, perfectly crusty on the outside, and doughy on the inside, with flecks of sea salt on top.

The pretzels.  Just ready to eat.
And so, that evening, I took a still-warm pretzel, gathered up a small handful of books, and retired to the sofa.