Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cutting Corners Making Bread... And a Secret Recipe

Entering the house on frosty days like these, there's nothing like the assault of fresh bread on the nose. This is the best bread recipe I have- its flavour coveted by many.  And it comes care of a lady who babysat me on weekends my parents stole away. Grandma Blair is not my grandmother and probably not yours, but when you taste this bread you'll realize its how you imagine family to be. A little crusty on the edges, warm and soft on the inside, with many different kinds of seeds giving variety to each bite

As with all my bread recipes, I've cut out most of the traditional steps of punching down and waiting forever to bake it. If you are a real stickler, then follow the traditional bread methods with this dough. But if you are like me, lazy and impatient with delayed gratification, then feel free to cut corners with any of your recipes too. This is how I approach any and all bread recipes:

1. Put all the dry ingredients in bowl. Mix.
2. Put all the wet ingredients in.
3. Mix. Add extra flour if dough is too wet (though don't be deceived when using a mixer- the more whole wheat you use, the less likely the dough will gather in a ball on the hook!). If you are mixing by hand, this is where the dough will become too stiff to stir, so you will knead it with your hands. Depending on what you are making, the finished dough will have different texture: Bread and buns dough will be soft and wet, keeping its form but just barely. Pita, pizza and bagel dough will be stiffer- they use less liquid and more flour.
4. Leave dough to 'rest' for five minutes in mixing bowl.
5. Decide: Cook it now or later? Most recipes make two loaves, so you may want to only cook one loaf and save the other dough for later. 
6. TO COOK IT LATER: Place dough in a large bag/ container and place in the fridge (you can let it rise on the counter for up to 2 hours). This dough will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, and the longer it 'cold rises' the more complex the flavour.
5. TO COOK IT NOW: Shape into forms- loaves, buns, twists, braids. 
A note about loaves- I exclusively use pie plates or cookie sheets to make bread. I shape the loaves in rounds, rings, or oval shapes. To give them that artisan look, use a serrated knife and slice them three times before they rise.

6. Let shaped dough rise for an hour on the counter (cover if you want). Experiment with the rise time,  you may not notice the difference between an hour rise and a half-hour in the finished product. If I'm in a hurry, I may form dough into buns and leave them only a half hour to rise - they then cook fast and are done within the hour. Dough will rise another quarter its size as it cooks.

7. TO USE DOUGH FROM THE FRIDGE: The cold rise experts say to remove dough from fridge and allow it to warm to room temperature before forming it. However, I form the dough immediately after removing it with no problems. In the case of cinnamon twists (a post for next week), I will often remove the dough, shape it, and put it straight in the oven. We're eating twists 20 minutes after removing the dough from the fridge. 

8. So, forget the rules and experiment! For more on this, check out this past post on the basic bread recipe. 

Grandma Blair Bread

Finally, the recipe... it can be made in the mixer or is small enough to easily mix by hand. Makes 2 loaves or 2 dozen buns.

1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl:
   - 1/2 C Red River Cereal
   - 1/4 C each: Sunflower, poppy, flax seeds and millet
   - 1 T Yeast
   - 1 t Salt
   - 3 C White Flour
   - 3 C Brown Flour
   - 1/4 Brown Sugar
2. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients:
   - 1/8 C molasses (or more to taste)
   - 1 egg, beaten
   - 1/4 C oil
   - 2 3/4 C warm water
3. Mix/knead until dough is soft and pliable (elastic is how it feels, but its hard to explain until you feel it!). Add flour if necessary. 
4. Let rest five minutes.
5. Form into bread or buns and let rise another hour OR place in bag for 'cold rise' in the fridge for up to two weeks.
6. Cook at 375 F. Bread for 45 minutes, Buns for 20-25. 
7. Slice, eat and enjoy.

I will be hosting a Bread Making Workshop on Sunday, January 23 in the afternoon. Max 4 people, so RSVP and pay early. Fee is $20.  You'll go home with 4 loaves of bread (2 Grandma Blair bread and two others), a dozen cinnamon twists, and a half dozen pitas/ or pizza dough.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ode to Home in Time for the Season of Nostalgia

As a self-proclaimed Homesteader, I’ve given some thought to the role Home plays in my life. Homesteaders in the traditional sense are concerned about the very basics of survival: food production, food preparation, shelter from the elements, food preservation, and propagating more humans to consume said food resources. 

Surely Home is a lot more than the sum of these skeletal parts. Screws and 2x4s, trusses and shingles, cement and hardwood: a house this makes- but a home?

The word Home has an emotional dimension that, when I imagine it, is the ‘meat’ (err: flesh) on the skeleton. Relationships, memory, expectations, and exasperations stretch over the structure and add warmth like that of new love or old love or bacon wrapped tenderloin.
There are many words that start with ‘home’ which are full of emotional associations. Let’s explore a few.

Consider the word: “Homemade”. Its very mention conjures the image of a crackling hearth and wafting scent of chicken soup and fresh bread.  Strange that this word doesn’t bring to mind those biscuits I cleverly disguised as ‘biscotti’ or the smoke from the hearth pizza that assailed the fire alarm until it shrieked like a cat fight.

Consider the word “Homemaker”. As a generation Y-er, I have a hard time detaching this word from snide ‘bare foot and pregnant in the kitchen’ comments. But the homemakers I’ve met don’t look much like their caricature. Women and men, fathers and grandmothers, they are involved in more than giving a house that homespun feel. Regularly they fuel the fire that is community action.

Say it, “Home.” I hear: Crackling fire (I don’t have a fireplace) and crinkle of Christmas presents (one day a year).

The reality is, at times Home sounds like me screaming at the kids to stop crying while they scream at me to stop screaming. Thankfully these off notes join the tenors of other sounds: the piano thunking, the girls wrestling on squeaky couch springs, the screen slamming with Mat’s entry, the bath tap pouring, the oven door opening, the forks scraping, and boots booming across the living room floor. The music of home, the real soundtrack and not the one created by advertisers and nostalgic storytellers, is dissident and soothing in even measure. It is as complex as a master composition: something to be enjoyed thoughtfully on a cold, snowy December Day.

Yak and Jammin

The ever-violent game of 'spoons'.

Yak and Jammin'

Kitchen Party
Murder Mystery Birthday party
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Back Deck Barber Shop