Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rainy Day Baking Extravaganza

It's been a weird day weather-wise: gusting winds, driving rain, resulting in several ferry cancellations.  One tree even blew down in our yard this morning!  Whole tree, not just a limb!  After being awake for quite some time listening to the wind while I lay in bed this morning, I rolled out at 6 like I usually do, and started getting ready for work.  About 5 minutes before I had to head out the door work was postponed til 8, then 10, giving me an awkward chunk of time to fill.  I started packing a few boxes of kitchen stuff and books (I'm moving in a week...ugh), then decided to make the banana bread that I had been putting off.  (For picture, see banner, for recipe see here).

After about 2 hours of work, which left me soaked and chilled, I came home again and decided to tackle a loaf of sandwich bread featured on Orangette a few weeks ago.  It was a good afternoon project, because although it it a fairly easy recipe, it involves several hours of resting, rising, etc.  I think it's a pretty good recipe, although I'll have to try it again because I had a few flubs.  First, I forgot to incorporate the salt, so the resulting loaf is a tiny bit bland.  Second, I dozed off during the second rise, and I let it rise about 15 minutes too long, which resulted in a partial collapse--somewhat reminiscent of a French chef's hat?


I'm going to go ahead and post the recipe for the bread, because I have a hunch that, if salt was remembered and rising time was adhered to, this would in fact be a very tasty toast & sandwich bread. 

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread (From Orangette)

* 1 package (2 ¼ tsp.) active dry yeast
* 3 Tbsp. unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
* 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
* 2 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
* 1 cup rolled oats
* 4 Tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
* 2 ¼ teaspoons table salt, or to taste

Grease a large bowl and a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, (or in the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one), combine 2 cups warm water, the yeast, and molasses. Stir briefly, and then allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes. Add the flours, oats, and butter, and stir to mix. The dough will look rough and shaggy. Cover with a towel, and let stand for 30 minutes. [This rest allows the dry ingredients to absorb the liquids, making for a dough that’s easy to work with and even-crumbed.]

Now, if you are kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a large board or counter sprinkled with more bread flour.  Sprinkle the dough with the salt, then knead for about 15 minutes, adding flour as needed.  I think I added at least 1/2 a cup of flour while I kneaded.  If you are fortunate enough to have a stand mixer, attach the bowl and the bread hook to the mixer. Add the salt, and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. The dough should come together around the hook and slap around the sides of the bowl without sticking. If the dough is sticking, add a tablespoon or two of bread flour, sprinkling it down between the dough and the sides of the bowl.  The dough should be soft and supple and slightly sticky.

If you kneaded by hand, form your dough into a ball and pop in in your greased bowl.  If you're a stand mixer type, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times, and then pop it in the greased bowl.  Cover the bowl with a towel and then let it rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.  To see if it’s ready, gently push a floured finger into it. If the dough springs back, it needs more time; if the dimple remains, it’s ready for the next step.

Next step is shaping: scrape the dough onto your floured surface. Press down on it, working it into a square shape, making sure to squeeze out any bubbles.  Fold the top and bottom edges of the dough so that they meet in the middle, then take the newly formed top and bottom edges and pinch them together; pinch the seam to seal. Pinch the sides together, and roll the shaped dough back and forth, plumping it so that it’s evenly formed and about the length of the pan. Place the dough in the greased pan with the seam side down, and press it gently into the corners of the pan.

Now, the bread rises again: cover the dough with a towel, and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to half again its size. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F--don't wait too long to preheat your oven, or your dough will rise too much, and as I discovered, that is not a good thing!

When the dough has finished its second rise, bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top crust and bottom crusts are nicely browned. To test done-ness, tap the top of the loaf a thump with your hand.  A hollow sound means that the bread is ready, if not, bake for a few additional minutes.  Remove the finished loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.  Allow the bread to cool fully--this helps the crumb set and the flavor to develop.  If you're a sucker for hot bread, like me, you can always reheat it in the microwave!

This bread will keep for 4 or 5 days at room temperature, if you don't eat it all first.  Just keep in in a plastic grocery or produce bag and enjoy!

Stay tuned for the finale of the rainy day baking extravaganza...I've run out of energy on this post!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Rhubarb "Jam"

UPDATE: I've already made this twice!  It is heavenly stirred into plain yogurt, and I actually wish I had some vanilla ice cream, because I know it would be amazing on top.  Sadly, I just have mint chocolate chip (okay, not just, but there's no vanilla in there!)  I actually made the full recipe today (a whole 2 lbs of rhubarb!) but I used 14 oz of sugar instead of the 16 that Martha recommended, which I thought was just perfect.  I'm already looking forward to breakfast tomorrow!


Are you ready for a super fast, super easy, and somehow super-addictive recipe?  Hopefully the answer is yes, because that's what I have. 

I swore up and down that I would take advantage of rhubarb season this year, and so I bought four stalks...a while ago....and they've just been sitting, sitting, sitting in my fridge for a very, very long time.  Three of them still looked decent, despite somewhat shriveled ends (but who can blame them--if I sat in my fridge that long, I'd be shriveled, too!)  I have been hesitant to bake something, because baking for myself is just dangerous--either I eat the whole thing, and then it's bad news, or I don't eat the whole thing, and half of it goes bad.  So I was excited when I came across this ridiculously easy recipe in this month's issue of Martha Stewart Living.  It's really just your basic stewed rhubarb, but calling it "jam" opens a world of possibilities: stir it into plain yogurt, use it like a sauce on vanilla ice cream, spread it on toast or a scone, the list goes on....  Or, you can just do what I'm doing, and eat it piping hot out of the sauce pan, because it is just THAT GOOD. 

Martha's recipe calls for 2 pounds of rhubarb, which is kind of a lot.  However, the proportions in this recipe are super simple, 2 parts rhubarb to 1 part sugar, BY WEIGHT.  So this is a good recipe to do using a kitchen scale, and you can easily adjust it for whatever amount you want.  I washed and sliced my rhubarb, then popped in on the scale, discovered I had exactly a pound, tared the scale, then added half a pound of sugar right into the pot.  However, I found the end result just a tad sweet--if I were to do this again (which I probably will, since I just noticed the other day that rhubarb is still in the grocery store--I guess seasons don't apply on this one), I would reduce the sugar by a few tablespoons or so.  Once it had cooked, I added a few tablespoons of lemon juice to amp up the sweet-tart flavor, and so far I've already eaten about half the pot...oh well.  I just hid my spoon so I can save at least a little for my yogurt tomorrow morning.

Rhubarb Jam (Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, August 2010)
Makes about 2 cups

* 1 pound of rhubarb, rinsed, trimmed, and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch lengths (about 3 cups)
* a scant 1/2 pound of sugar (about 1 cup)
* Pinch of salt
* Lemon juice, to taste (optional)

In a saucepan combine rhubarb, sugar, and salt.   Bring to a boil, stirring often.  Cook, continuing to stir frequently, until the bubbles slow, foam subsides, and the jam is a nice, thick consistency that sticks the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice, to taste, and allow to cool for 1 hour.  Refrigerate overnight, and up to 1 week.

This is what it looks like when it's done.  
Insert spoon, eat, and repeat over and over.