November 3, 2009

Fall Back, Part 1

I’ve been working really long hours the past several weeks and most of my free time has been spent cooking instead of writing about cooking.  My work schedule has finally let up, and in honor of the time change, here’s a recap of the last week of September:

September 24, 2009

We made pretzels:

Until we started our little pantry project, there were many things that found their way into our pantry and never found their way out again.  Among the ranks was a make-your-own pretzel kit that we got in a gift exchange last Christmas (see what I mean).   Despite our best intentions, it didn’t see the light of day until a few weeks ago.  It was a fun change of pace to have a project we could both work on in the kitchen.

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September 25, 2009

We stopped buying bread.

This is my first multigrain loaf -- from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, with a couple of adjustments.  
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Although  I own a couple of appliances that will do it for me, I really enjoy kneading dough by hand.  It’s a pretty good upper body workout and makes for a much more satisfying bread-baking experience.   That said, I did break down and let my stand mixer do the work for me on a whole wheat loaf I made last week.  I was in the middle of another cooking project (more on that later) and with the help of the mixer, turned out a loaf of bread in less than 30 minutes of active time!
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Complete with freshly cooked wheat berries in the mix.
There was enough dough left over to make a couple of rolls….
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…which were perfect for roast beef sandwiches the next day.
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You’ll notice my imperfect shaping skills in the gap at the top of the loaf… I’m getting there…

September 26, 2009

I attempted my first French omelet a la Cook’s Illustrated

My pan was 9” instead of the recommended 8,” so I didn’t quite have enough egg mixture to go around. 
I didn’t have chives, so minced red onion served as a substitute.
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It didn’t roll out of the pan quite as easily as promised.
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I ended up rolling it up with my fingers, instead  of the recommended paper towel.  The paper towel is supposed to protect your fingers from the hot omelet, while providing an aide to roll it perfectly.  I found it unnecessary for the heat and easier to roll without the paper towel. 
Cheating?  Probably…

It still tasted quite good, however. 
Next time, I’ll give Julia’s method a go – and make sure I have an 8” pan.

September 27, 2009

I made my very own sourdough starter from scratch (also with the help of The Bread Baker's Apprentice).  The first attempt didn’t go so well:
I read up on the unwanted bacteria that exist in the air and can grow in a sourdough starter and prevent the good bacteria (yeast) from growing.  After finding some solutions online, I attempted to rescue the first batch of starter and began building a second batch, which went off without a hitch.   I tested the first batch by making a loaf with it. 
Although it didn’t rise as much as I wanted, it tasted great and gave me high hopes for the other batch of starter.
My second mostly-whole-wheat sourdough boule rose properly and was just delicious.   Hopefully this week, I’ll have time to refresh the starter and make some more!

September 29, 2009

I concocted a slightly healthier twist on my mother’s recipe for pumpkin bread, substituting whole wheat for half of the flour, reducing the sugar, and reducing the oil.   The addition of whole wheat flour was undetectable and the sugar and oil were hardly missed.
The Original Recipe                              The New Recipe
3 cups sugar                                                 2 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup oil                                                       just more than 3/4 cup oil
4 eggs                                                          4 eggs
½ cup water                                                1/2 cup water
3 ½ cups flour                                             2 cups whole wheat flour 
                                                                   1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda                                       2 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp cinnamon                                            3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg                                               1 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves (optional)                               ¼ tsp cloves (optional) 
1 ½ tsp salt                                                 1 ½ tsp salt   
2 cups (16oz) pumpkin                               2 ½ cups (20 oz) pumpkin
1 cup walnuts (optional)                              1 cup walnuts (optional)

Beat together oil and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating between each.  Add water and beat until combined.   Sift together dry ingredients, add to wet ingredients and beat until blended.   Stir in pumpkin until blended. Pour into greased and floured loaf pans and bake at 350 for 1 hour.
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brooke said...

Wow. I think you should move in with us. I'm supremely jealous of your skills and initiative in the kitchen. I think I could be pretty decent with cooking, if I only applied myself. But that's sort of the hang-up, isn't it? Instead, we eat things like "vegetarian tacos," which are just taco shells with seasoned canned red beans. I do have a few specialties, but they don't get made all too often.

Any thoughts on how to use real pumpkin in that pumpkin bread recipe? A few years ago, I started making pumpkin pie with real pumpkin, and now that's all I ever want to use. I'd love to do a pumpkin bread--it would be even easier to serve than the pie at our fall chili party.

Y'all are coming for Thanksgiving, right?

efm said...

Thanks, Brooke! It's so great to see that someone is reading. :)

I think substituting fresh pumpkin in the bread is a great idea! (I've had a similar experience with fresh pumpkin in pie.) You could easily substitute an equal amount of fresh pumpkin as called for in the recipe. Just roast, peel and puree. (I assume you know how to do this if you've made pie with fresh pumpkin. Otherwise, it's the same method used for the butternut squash in my most recent post, "Ravioli, fatti a mano.") If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Sadly, we won't be home for Thanksgiving. I am in rehearsal for a show, and the only day we get off is Thanksgiving day itself, making any travel impossible. I hate that I am going to miss seeing everyone. I don't think I've ever not been there for Thanksgiving. What's worse, we only get three days off for Christmas! We are coming home, so hopefully we will get to see everyone, but it will be a really quick trip (just Dec 22-25).

On the bright side, this might be the only chance I ever have to make Thanksgiving dinner myself (at least for the next several decades), so I am excited about the prospect of tackling an entire turkey! (Not literally, of course. It will be dead already. :) )

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