21 September 2008

I thig I'b gettig a code

So I skipped yoga today, in favor of a nap, hoping that if I baby myself I can prevent the cold from becoming full blown. Although what I ended up doing was a ton of housework in the morning - litterbox, vacuuming, cleaning someone's shitty paw prints off the couch, starting laundry, changing the sheets, yadda yadda. And I drank like a gallon of orange juice, for the vitamin C. Now I'm all full of juice and sloshing around.

Then after the chores in the morning I napped, and if there's anything nicer than snuggling under a quilt for a nap on a Sunday afternoon with a clean conscience, clean sheets, sunlight streaming in through the windows and a purring cat, I don't know what it is. Dave was at band practice so I had total peace and quiet. Woke up around 5:30, showered and started some bread. Man, I love that KitchenAid so much. Thank you again, Mr. and Mrs. Lynch. The dough came together in about 5 minutes.

I adapted a James Beard recipe (which is itself an adaptation of a Jane Grigson recipe) to suit the ingredients I had on hand. In a funny coincidence, I own the Jane Grigson book that Beard talks about, too. There were so many good people writing cookbooks in the 50s and 60s - James Beard, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson - that that's what my cookbook collection is based on. I have Julia Child but I confess I've never cooked out of her. The modern writers I turn to most are Mark Bittman, Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson. Oh, and my friend Anne Bramley's Eat Feed Autumn Winter arrived from Amazon yesterday and I've already read most of it (I inhaled it like a novel) and given my mother a recipe from it (for roasted vegetables.) It has actually made me excited about the squash and root vegetables that I know we'll soon be inundated with from Boston Organics, our CSA.

Anyway, the bread is in the oven now so I can't report yet on whether it's good or not, but so far it seems to be acting normally. I've never made so many drastic alterations to a recipe so I'm a little nervous about the outcome. I will update this post if it turns out gross, otherwise you can assume it was delicious.

Here's Beard's original recipe:

5 cups of all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
1 tbl salt
2 tbl sugar
2 pkgs active dry yeast
2 c. warm milk
1/2 c. walnut oil or 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c walnuts, roughly chopped
3/4 c. onions, finely chopped

Sift flour, salt and sugar into a warm bowl. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 c. warm milk and pour into the middle of the flour, together with the walnut oil (or butter) and the rest of the milk. Knead well until the dough is firm and blended into a smooth, springy ball (about 10 minutes.) Leave in a warm place to rise for two hours (or in a cool place overnight.) Punch down the dough, mix in the walnuts and onion, shape into 4 rounds and leave on a greased baking tray to rise for 45 minutes. Bake at 400F for 45 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped underneath.

Here's what I made:

Pesto Bread

5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tbl salt
2 tbl sugar
4 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast (bought the wrong yeast by mistake)
2 c. warm milk, between 120F and 130F
about 1/4 c. pesto topped off with 1/4 c. olive oil (to keep the right proportion of fat.)

I put all the dry ingredients together in the bowl of the kitchen aid and gave it a few stirs. Then I added the milk (apparently bread machine yeast requires a higher temperature than regular yeast, or so the sides of the jar say. Anyway the higher temp thing was handy since I accidentally let the milk get a little hotter than I planned and I didn't have to wait too long for it to cool enough.) Once the milk was in, I dumped in the pesto and olive oil and let the whole thing come together. I stuck a towel over the bread dough just as it was, in the kitchen aid bowl, and let it rise on the stove top (where it got a bunch of residual heat from the pre-heating oven.) Technically I should have washed and greased another bowl and turned the bread to oil it all over and let the bread rise in that, since mine stuck a little. But who cares when you're skipping a whole pain-in-the-ass step? The sides of the bread machine yeast jar said to let the dough rise for 10 minutes, but I waited until it doubled in size and that took about 30 minutes, which is still faster than the two hours in the original recipe.

Then I peeled it off the sides of the bowl - like I said, it stuck a bit but not terribly - and punched it down and shaped it into two loaves on a non-stick cookie sheet (instead of 4 loaves like in the original recipe. That would have made four elf-sized loaves.) I've made this bread before and not only were the walnuts and onions a pain in the ass to incorporate at that stage, I didn't think they added that much to the bread - not like essential moisture or anything - so I didn't even add pine nuts (though that would probably have been pretty good.) I did brush it with olive oil to prevent it from cracking as it rose, which I guess worked since it didn't crack. I nearly sprinkled it with coarse salt at that point, thinking of foccacia, but decided that salty bread might be strange in sandwiches, which is probably the fate of this bread. My hope was for it to be tasty enough that just smearing cream cheese in between slices would make a good, and easy, lunch.

Once it was shaped into loaves, I let it rise again until it was doubled in size, which seemed to take about half an hour - the kitchen was pretty warm by this time, which I think helped the bread's rise along - and then stuck it in the oven. I set the timer for 45 minutes, figuring that if anything, it would take longer than the original recipe but either my oven timer is messed up (possible) or the bread machine yeast does something crazy, because it was only in there 25 minutes (according to the oven timer) before it was all brown and hollow-sounding when rapped on the bottom. I dunno. I think it's the oven timer, because bread usually takes more than 25 minutes to bake. I didn't look at my watch, either, which means we'll have to wait until it's cool to cut in and see if it's raw in the middle or anything horrible like that. Oh, the suspense! I really know how to live, huh? Probably no pictures even if I do update this post because I still don't have the right memory for the new camera and I don't really want another dachshund fetus incident.

update three seconds later: it is delicious. Om nom nom. The milk made it super fluffy and light, and you get just the right amount of pesto taste, distinct but not overwhelming


Deborah said...

We need to get together again at Kay's soon and talk food. You are a cook after my own heart. I'm going to have to check out Eat Feed Autumn Winter. Sounds amazing. I have challah baking right now...

Cara deBeer said...

ooh, yeah, I can bring the book! Funny, I was just thinking it has been a while since I've made challah.

seppaku said...

MmmmMm, bread. Too bad my Mister has villainized all carbs.... except home made pizza ;)

Ever looked into artesianal yeasts and cultures? I've tried a few of these, VERY TASTY.

Hope yr new job is going well.