About Me

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Pennsylvania, United States
What changes hath time wrought...mostly a different hair-color, a few wrinkles and loss of short-term memory.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bread-Making Mishaps

For my birthday-in April- my sister sent me a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We had discussed this on the phone before it arrived unexpectedly. Mary, my sister, raved about how easy it was to make and how everyone at her house LOVED this bread. So when it came I was anxious to get started.
Well, I read the introduction several times and was a little confused. My sister is/was/has been an avid bread maker. I remember her wonderful homemade wheat bread that she would make when she was home from College for the summer. She ALWAYS made it look so simple. On reflection, I probably didn't notice the effort she actually put IN to prepare the loaf. I was given a bread-maker for Christmas at least 10 years ago. During that time I tried several times and never made anything edible, much less appetizing. It always SMELLED good, though.

Over the past month or so I've been gathering 5-minute-a day bread-making equipment. Pizza Peel. In 44 years I have never heard anyone using this baking instrument. It's a big wooden paddle almost as big as my 4-year old son. Dough Scraper. 5-quart plastic storage container- not airtight, Cornmeal. The last item/ingredient I purchased was the yeast. Try finding the yeast at your grocery store. At the store closest to my abode the yeast was located in a refrigerated section above the sour cream. Silly me, I scoured the flour section. The entire recipe for The Master Recipe: Boule was warm water, yeast, kosher salt, and flour. How could I mess this up??? I'd read the directions at least a dozen times.

The mixing was easy with the wonderful Kitchen Aid Mixer. Six cups of flour was made into dough quickly. It was very sticky, but I got it in that plastic container. I put it right in the refrigerator. It said if this was the first time making this recipe it was best to keep in the 'fridge overnight. Well about 4 hours later it occurs to me I think the dough was supposed to raise for a couple hours before I put it in the cold. Indeed, I was to let it raise at room temp. for two hours! I searched online trying to find if anyone else had made this mistake. I found a nice blog, http://www.adventuresinshaw.com/2008/11/artisan-boule-bread/ and there I found the authors of the book had their OWN site: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/ where I found thousands of questions and comments. And ERRORS! The authors had a page about errors they made in their book. One of which was yeast amount: the recipe called for 1.5 packets of yeast. The recipe SHOULD read 1.5 tablespoons which equals 2 packets. So now, my bread has never risen and I don't have enough yeast! I finally decided to phone the expert: my sister.

Mary suggested I turn the oven on to warm it and put the dough inside when I could touch the racks without injury. I did that and there it stayed until my husband came to bed and woke me up. He put it back in the refrigerator at 12:30. It had been out "rising" for almost 6 hours and had only raised a couple inches. I was not optimistic. This was enough dough to make small loaves of boule bread for 5 days! I was so disappointed.

The next day I persevered and brought that dough out to prepare my first bread. The book said this step- pulling out the dough in a grapefruit-size ball- should take no more that 60 seconds. I don't know if it was all my missteps but I sprinkled flour on the top of the dough and made a grab for it. OK. Getting the dough was no problem. Getting the dough off my hand was a problem! I called my daughter to come to the kitchen and flour my hands! We did this about 4 times as I transferred the dough from left to right. I formed a ball as best I could and plunked the mass onto the cornmeal covered pizza peel. I used my serrated knife to make cuts across the surface of the ball. My sis had advised me to make nice deep cuts. Which I did successfully even though I neglected to make it easier by sprinkling flour on the top as the recipe suggested. What more could I do wrong. Well, I checked the directions and I was supposed to let the bread rise on the pizza peel for 1hour and 40 minutes THEN make the slashes!!!

I kept expecting/hoping to see some magnificent ballooning action by my pitiful pile of dough. I swear the size of the dough schmutz never changed. During this time my chicken was cooking in the oven and I borrowed an oven thermometer from my neighbor to see if my oven was accurate in its degrees. It was about 2-3 degrees hotter than the dial read. The book said it was important to know the temp. quirks of your oven. I'm not sure how I was supposed to adjust the temp... It's finally time to put the bread onto the cooking stone that's been warming up in the oven.

I must say it slid right off the pizza peel. I closed the oven and started to prepare a veggie. But, seconds later I remembered to add a cup of water to the broiler pan on the top rack of the oven. Because this bread bakes with steam.

I kept checking on it while we ate dinner. The bread did not finish until we were done eating and my hubby was just reaching for the leftover Italian bread. I told him he had to wait. Seconds later I pulled a beautiful round loaf of bread- I wished I'd photographed-out of the oven and let it cool. We sliced it up and even with ALL my goofs this bread was so good and it was devoured completely!

That is the point of this bread. It's in the refrigerator waiting to be made for 4 additional dinners within 2 weeks. I'm not exactly sure how they determine it takes only 5 minutes a day because it has to rise for 1:40 plus add 30 minutes of baking time. BUT it's all worth it. Warm bread for dinner: priceless.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Please, Please, Please Can We Go Home?

My husband just asked me if the kids were good today. I didn't give them glowing reviews, but reflecting on the day now, maybe I should have.

The day started out for them at the library. My kids LOVE books and Sarah is avidly reading on her own. Mostly Magic Treehouse books at the moment. Jacob had Storytime for 45 minutes-during which they showed a video!!!!- so I chatted with a friend and Sarah selected books then sat with friends on some beanbag chairs and read. Very relaxing.

Then we went to WalMart and that's when their calmness started to wane...I stopped to talk to a former colleague and they just went nuts! They didn't actually bother us, but they did end up rolling on the floor and squealing. Thankfully we did not have a very long grocery list. And we headed to Bob Evans for lunch.

Sarah had earned a free meal from B. Evans through her Summer Reading program and Tim doesn't like BE so that's where we went. Now I don't particularly like Bob Evans because of the food choices and the manager who once asked Jacob while we were waiting for our food if he was having lunch with his grandmother!!! Besides that everytime Sarah has eaten there she's thrown up there! Glad we had the free coupon...I do not like that place...not even their coffee! The kids were back to calm because I allowed them to bring a library book in with them. From there we headed to the the Kitchen Collection store in the mall.

Thinking about it now...why would ANY kid enjoy going to a kitchen store. I was looking for a pizza peel. My sister had given me a book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and a pizza peel was one item that was necessary. I didn't even know what that was. It's a big wood paddle! My son was sooooo excited to be carrying this thing around until I finally had to take it from him before he hurt someone. I made them go up and down every aisle. It's not a big store, but still. The fact that no one whined makes them little angels.

Then back in the car...it's still cold and rainy- not drizzle- rainy...I bargain with the kids that we'll only stop to shop the Applefest Craft Fair if I can find a prime parking spot. I had to go to Franklin anyway to drop a TV off at the Salvation Army. We found a choice spot and armed (and footed)with two umbrellas, rubber puddle-jumpers and hoods up we were off. It was the best Applefest Craft Show I'd been to for a long time simply because there were NO crowds! Unfortunately for the kids it meant I could take my time browsing. The rain never let up. Every fifth vendor Jacob would say, "Please, Please, Please Can We Go Home?" I kept promising we just had a few more tents to peruse. I promised hot chocolate when we got home. Of course when we got home I had to put groceries away and hang up all the wet coats and clothes before I could make them ther warm milk.

It's funny how easy it is to make kids happy. They had hot chocolate with marshmallows and cheeze snacks and were so delighted.

My original assessment of their behavior today was way off. They were wonderful and I wouldn't want them to be any other way.