Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Discovering No-Knead Artisan Bread

Karen, over at That Mom posted a while ago about the book, "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day," saying she was about to change our lives. I checked the book out from the library. She was right about changing my life, but the authors were a tad sneaky with the five minute part. That's about how long it takes to mix up the dough. There's a little more involved, but not much and unlike what they say, a pizza peel is unnecessary. I still use my old banged up pans rubbed with lard and coated in cornmeal. And it's okay to turn the dough over after removing it from the container it rose in, form into a log, give it a quick knead or two and evenly cut it up.I tried Five Minute's way of pulling out a grapefruit size ball with well floured hands - the artisan part. Frankly, it started looking like the mess GG and the boys get into when they don't remember to keep the moist cut part of the dough, away from their hands. Like I've Said Before, always keep that sticky part turned into the dough center. Five Minutes uses flour to control this, so if you choose to go that route, do the same. I use lots of flour too, but also a very sharp knife and weigh scales.When I'm ready to remove the dough from it's container, I coat the dough top with flour and using a spatula, ease it away from the walls of the container. It will begin to deflate by about half. Flip the container upside down onto the work surface and the whole thing slides out. Flip the sticky part into itself, forming a log. Next, I cut it into three even balls, keeping out what I want to use right away and place the remainder back into the container to use later. When it comes time to use the remaining dough, it handles easier and needs less flour to manage it. I also coat the container lid with lard to keep the rising dough from sticking.Years ago, I looked at doing no-knead bread but thought, "no way." I now have an 8 litre container of dough quietly waiting in the back of my fridge to be turned into pizza, or buns or loaves at a moment's notice. Forty minutes to rise and 15 - 20 to bake at 400 F, pizza is quicker. There is no need to wait around for pizza dough to rise a second time. The dough being thinner will rise sufficiently in the time it takes to prepare and apply toppings.When making Five Minute's basic white, rye and pizza doughs I realized when looking at the proportions, I've been making the same thing for years but kneading it instead. The day I went to try their pizza dough, GG had sniped the book, so I just used their basic recipe adding the same amount of oil I always do with my recipe.It seems the higher moisture to flour ratio is what produces the gluten, in place of kneading. A bread with a higher moisture content will bake just fine. I know this, but never took that observation further. So for the last thirty plus years, I've stood kneading and kneading on rainy days and feeling guilty all for naught when finally slamming that uncooperative "artisan" lump back into the bowl, knowing full well it supposedly, "wasn't ready." The only real difference with the breads coming out of Decadent's kitchen of late, have been the chewier crustier crusts without any effort at all. If a harder crust is desired, brush the bread with cold water just before placing in the oven and then squirt water into the oven to create steam at five minute baking intervals. But it really isn't necessary. If you like bread rough looking - just reach into the bucket with well floured hands and pull out some dough without weighing. I need breadmaking to be a little more precise than that. I can still make it look artistic, but it's nice to know that the remaining little ball of dough in the fridge will produce exactly enough pizza or buns needed for the next round of lunches.
I took a look at all my recipes and saw that they could easily adapt to a no-knead method. So now you know why it's been a little quiet here of late - busy in the kitchen. The basic Five Minutes recipe was just shy of what I needed in raw dough weight to produce the end-products I need. Therefore, I increased the flour and liquid requirement in their basic recipe by a quarter. This made three balls each weighing 1 and 3/4 lbs. I reduced the salt as we thought theirs was too salty. I also use less yeast than they do, but more sugar. One tablespoon of yeast is plenty per batch and conveniently is the same amount in a packet of yeast. For some of the doughs, I've interchanged oil or beaten eggs, both counting as part of the total liquid. We tried pizza using dough which had neither oil nor eggs and it worked just fine. However, we prefer it to include one or the either. But that same oil-free, egg-less dough turned into rolls, was just like the wonderful little Portuguese rolls we get in Town - actually better.Free-form loaves have always been a hit here, and Violinist, who likes working in the kitchen, asked specifically for these directions. Thus far, I've used my same old bake times and temperatures except for the rye which needed Five Minute's higher bake times and temperature. Their pizza and buns bake times were too high and we ended up with a few burned bottoms. Of course, after taking a look at my disgusting oven I realize that may have something to do with it.
Keeping extra dough in the fridge is something I've always done. But now, it's fast and easy to mix up, skipping the kneading seems to produce a better crust and I no longer debate baking bread on a rainy day. Thank you, That Mom, for putting me onto this.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Noah, Monkeys and Bad Dreams

For the next nine months at church, I will be part of a duo, teaching twenty, six-year old children. Roll Kuchen - I shall be forever grateful to you - I think. I just get chickens, kittens and Violinist off my hands and she returns the favour like this.
"Yes, I can help - oh, I like little kids," I said.
Last night we had the teachers' meeting, after which I went home and dreamed the following.

I was playing the Wicked Witch of the West. Frantically, I applied make-up with a diaper and rushed to enter the stage, only then realizing I didn't know my lines. Panicking, I asked someone what my lines were, but they didn't speak English. Desperately I reached for a script on a prop table but an actor picked up the booklet, handed me a bag filled with scissors, glue, cookies and toys saying, "Just ad lib."

Looking up I saw a little monkey teetering atop a pole stacked precariously with books, laughing and having the time of his life. And another monkey and another monkey and another one, and on and on - dozens of little monkeys, some wearing little pink tutus, others in little denim overalls - all making little screeching sounds. The music was getting louder and louder. I had to go on. Just then I woke up - 0615 - Buff and Fun laughing in the bathroom brushing their teeth, Fun's iPod played music. GG snored. I could hear the cats playing outside our window.

Here's my interpretation. We go to a church which has English and German language services. After holding high up into the air to show us bags, filled with badges, Roll Kuchen stacked books and bags and memory verse sheets and pouches on the table in front of us and then continued discussing banners and crests and crafts and pine block car derbys and prayer times and games and music and snacks and t-shirts. My partner and I sat scratching our heads over our teacher manuals, which at first glance, seemed a little confusing. Decadent Housewife morphed into the Wicked Witch of the West since we are to create all by ourselves, some sort of talent show for our class.

And, on the way home after picking up Buff from work at The Chicken Place, I told him about the teachers' meeting.
"Why don't you have them act out Noah's Ark? You have just about enough kids," he grinned.
"Thanks, Buff. Can you help?"
"No, but the monkeys could come on last because they would be busy having fun bouncing on the bed."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Passport Caboodle

The other day while in the passport office, a congenially aloof welcome wicket clerk asked what I do, to which I handily replied, "I am a homemaker."...(you know, I do laundry, beds, pick-up after grown men, remind them to do things, fix them food - stuff like that.)
"For longer than two years?"
"Yes."
"We might have to verify it."
"And how would you do that?" I asked.
She gave a smug smile, handed back the green school folder I scarfed earlier that morning from Buff's backpack and silently turned through my papers again.
It was then I remembered and blurted out, "I have a blog. I write about what I do. Would that work?"
"We wouldn't need to know about every day," she smirked pointing to the waiting area. I noted the huge sign declaring the room under surveillance cameras, and thought about the delicious cookbook in the bottom of my tote. But before I could seat myself, remove the book and flash its cover, a buzzer sounded and a disembodied VOICE instructed, "Number 23, Wicket 5." It seemed all a bit Huxleyish and I suddenly just wanted to turn around and leave.Wicket 5's much younger clerk methodically spread out my papers before her. She was quiet and then asked, "What happened to your birth certificate?"
"I sat on it - when I was 18. I went to a concert across the river and didn't want to take my purse, so I stuck it in my back pocket and sat on it." I left out the part about Alice Cooper. At that moment my cell began audibly vibrating in my pocket.
"The crease is going through the numbers, you should get a new one."
I leaned across straining to look at the slightly oblique crease. Every time I see it I think of the nice French Canadian boy who took me to see Alice Cooper. The cell stopped vibrating. The crease runs through a space between numbers leaving them undisturbed and looking no different than the day it happened back in 1970 something. I nodded in agreement.

"The new ones are paper. They don't have this coating," she flatly said adding, "What do you do?"
The phone began vibrating again. I shifted the tote onto the narrow wicket ledge to mute the cell when the weight of the cookbook tipped the tote over. Out rolled my plum. "365 Ways to Cook Chicken" along with the green folder slid onto #5's work station.
"I'm a homemaker," I apologized reaching for my bag and chicken book - she automatically stopped the rolling fruit with her upturned hand...(and this is my thrifty homemade tote which I just dumped onto your desk, designed and sewn by me, Decadent Housewife, using vintage materials and interlined with a recycled flannel bed sheet. And good grief, who's pants are so on fire that they have to keep calling me here?)
The cell stopped. "How do you know this person?" I leaned across to see to whom she was referring. The cell started again.
"Church. We met in church."
"Friend? Are they a friend?"
"Friend."
"How long have they known you?"
"25 years." I'd missed filling in that part too.
"And this person?"
"Friend. She's known me since I was born."

While, Clerk #5 continued quietly examining the papers, I decided to use the lull to answer my cell.
"Yes?...Do I see a green folder?...Yes, it's here...I'm not there...I'm in The City...What do you need?...When do you need it?...Your lunch was in the fridge...I have to pick up your father...Sigh...I love you too." Upon which I noticed the clerk staring at me and once more I intensely wanted to leave.
"When do you plan on leaving?" she asked.
"Pardon, me?" I stared at her.
"When do you plan on leaving the country?"
"Soon, or maybe not so soon."...(sooner than you think, #5.)
Finally I got to leave, after handing over payment and listening to stern last instructions. I caught a glimpse of the VOICE, escaped down the elevator, ran to the river, wedged the still valid parking pass into the coin slot of the parking lot ticket dispenser, drove like a madwoman to pick up GG, shopped for vegetables and drove home to rescue Buff.
(Photos by GG at The Farm - turf I'm much more comfortable with. Wildflowers, skirt the southeast perimeter of the bush, I'm not sure what kind though - maybe a Rudbeckia? Perhaps someone could tell us. They are easily six foot tall.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oats Porridge Hot

We are back to up before the sun mornings and Mom standing over the stove stirring porridge. Yes. Porridge. Don't turn your nose up. It's good for you. And if there is leftover porridge, I refrigerate it and it finds it's way into my bread bowl. One can even microwave it the next morning. My dad and grandfather and I think maybe their horses got through a depression and world war living on this stuff - fried - three times a day. It's what gives me my rosy cheeks. Okay, I'll stop.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

The best oatmeal muffins I ever had came out of a hospital lunchroom vending machine. I know. Hard to believe. The day I quit my job at that hospital, I walked down to the coffee shop lunch room, holding two quarters ready to stuff into the vending machine, but the oatmeal muffins were all gone. And I moved three hours away from that city so that was the end of that. To this day I have not been able to duplicate those muffins, although the base of these is close.
  • 2 cups quick cook oats
  • 2 cups soured milk or buttermilk or soya (Use vinegar to sour milk. Add 1 Tbsp. of vinegar into a measuring cup and then top up with fresh milk to equal 1 cup. Therefore, for this recipe use 2 T. vinegar topping up with enough fresh milk equaling 2 cups.)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar (don't pack)
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
This is one of those recipes I got from a church lady and it kinda' sorta' reminds me of those vending machine muffins. It makes approximately 1 muffin short of two dozen - if you want pint size muffins for little kids. If you want bigger muffins for bigger kids, it will make about a dozen and a half. It is also what I used to make my Oatmeal Raisin Spice Muffins and lately I've been thinking about tweaking it again with cranberries and orange.

I have dispensed with using muffin papers, now that I have lovely new non-stick muffin tins because somebody threw my old ones away. (You don't want to hear about that.) It bothers me to see the amount of muffin still stuck to the papers which get discarded. And too because I now have decent pans I can use a bit of lard, which will not burn, to lightly grease the tins. And there you have it.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Into a large bowl measure out the oats, add the soured milk to let sit and soak. Set aside.
In another bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar.
Whisk it all together and break up any lumps in the brown sugar using your hands. Set that aside.
Break and beat the eggs. Mix in the vanilla. See what I learned once while watching Johnny Carson? How to break eggs with one hand - not that it matters.
Now, mix the egg mixture into the oat mixture. Set aside.
Stir the blueberries into the flour mixture. The ones shown here were frozen. It's best to not let them thaw. Just toss in the completely frozen fruit. They will hold their shape better. Also coating the berries in the flour is supposed to keep them suspended in the batter rather than sink to the bottom. Go figure. I learned this from baking fruitcakes - which I may just yet spring onto you.
Add the dry blueberry flour mixture to the wet egg/oatmeal mixture and gently stir together. Make sure the whole thing is mixed but don't beat it. Just make sure there aren't any patches of flour still visible.
Drop into the greased tins about 2/3rds full. See my nice new pans? And they are pans with only 6 tins which I am finding bake more evenly than a flat of 12 tins. I don't even bother to turn these pans now. Just leave a little space between the two pans when placing into the oven. So of course, because the oven door stays shut, the bake time is decreased a tad. Bake at 400 F x 18 - 20 minutes.
Take out and test with a toothpick or kabob skewer for doneness. I've been letting the muffins rest in the pans about five minutes and then removing them. Some will need a bit of coaxing where a berry has cooked next to the tin. Otherwise they will come out quite readily. And that's that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Cat Situation

Ever since our dear, Ginger (God rest her sneaky little terrier soul) left for dog heaven, we have been overrun with cats. These two belong to Jet - sort of. Jet and her sister Bess showed up this past winter. Jet had four kittens, some of whom Bess kept stealing. I tried to even things out but we can see now that I retrieved the wrong black kitty as Bess had a whole assortment of stolen kittens. I'm going to take Jet and Bess to meet Dr. McDowell in Town as soon as Jet finishes nursing and teaching Tigger to hunt. Buff has claimed Tigger. He's a pretty tabby. The kittens Bess raised will be on their own, as she's kept them hidden away from people. The same goes for the set of booted kitties we found living under the deck this summer. The two pictured here, left yesterday riding in a wicker basket to their new life with Violinist and Roll Kuchen. But not before thoroughly destroying most of my plants. The Cat is very annoyed with it all. So am I. We have begun talking about dogs again.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Go West Young Man

Fun and Billy are best friends. Fun is off to college this fall. Billy is going out west. He is catching up with his family already moved out there. Fun will still live at home with us, mom and dad and "little" brother Buff and only head out west every morning in his smarty pants old guy's car as far as The City.

Be safe Billy and keep those magic tricks going. Billy is a magician and does things like make pictures appear on stuff that you hold safely in your hand. "Poof! et voila!" He says it's all logic. I say, "Billy, you are magic! We will miss you."
"Fun - your lunch will be in the fridge."


(Photo by Fun. Fun is left, Billy, right.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another Day Another Spider

I try to keep them swept up and away. But they always come back. Is there a lesson there? Likely. They are amazing little creatures - so long as they stay outside. This one set up house outside our front door and Fun came rushing in with my camera to show and tell me all about it. Spiders and boys - some things never change.