Bread #36 English Muffins

“The best part of waking up…”, my mantra after another not so blissful nights sleep.  While YES, it is without a doubt the coffee that gets me up and going that I love and cherish so very much, but this morning, a little nook and little cranny had me wiggling my toes with excitement as I pulled back my sleepy warm covers to attend to a little one waking far too early for the bedtime he chose the previous evening.

That’s right.  You heard it.  English Muffins.  Oh me, oh my.  These little balls of dough happened to be the pertiest of doughs I had made in say…. at least six weeks!  Oh how I love me a satiny-soft white dough.  They are surely some of the most glorious substances on this planet.

Making the english muffin isn’t as difficult as old Mr. Thomas would have you believe.  And here is a secret:  you can do it better than him too.  I promise.

Start off with your fancy sifter and load it up with 2.25 cups of unbleached bread flour, 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, 3/4 tsp of salt and 1 1/4 tsp of instant yeast.  In another bowl mix up one tablespoon of butter and 3/4 cup of milk.  Oh, this looks weird!  The butter is all waterproof but soggy at the same time.  I don’t understand it either.  Start mixing the two together until you have a ball of dough.  If you need to you can add up to 1.4 cup more of milk.

Now on a floured surface beat it up good and proper.  Knock it around a bit.  

This should take a while if you are not practiced at it.  It needs to pass the window pane test.

Pop her in an oiled bowl, turn it once and let it rise for about 90 minutes or so.

Wipe the counter down and slice into 6 equal pieces.  Form each into a little ball.  Then, taking one piece at a time, pull back the dough over and over on the top until it forms a very tight ball.  Tuck the bottoms under nice and neat and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment.

Spray them all with olive oil or water and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Cover with a towel and let rise for another 90 minutes.

Heat up a big old skillet with a brush of olive oil (which surprisingly enough fixes squeaky doors! Who knew?) to a medium temperature and cook them biscuits on each side for about 5 minutes.  While you are sizzling the first batch, cover the remaining ones back up so they don’t get all hard.  Place all the golden brown muffins in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes.  Let them rest for a good thirty minutes before you dive in.  This is a must, for they are still finishing their cook time.

Oh yes, the simple things in life are what keep this here mama going.  A warm, soft, buttered, english muffin on a crispy eye monday morning is just the thing to keep me grinning for many hours to come.  And of course a slightly bottomless mug of joe.  That doesn’t hurt either.

OOh yes, and these taste divine with a spread of marscapone.  Like most things tend to do.

Hope the start of your week is a little bit tasty too.

Bread # 32 & 33 Italian Bread and Hearty Wheat

For the birthday bash I (of course) wanted to have some fresh bread for our meal.  I chose an Italian Bread for the grown up tomato, mozzarella and pesto sandwiches, and a wheat so hearty (any parent would be proud to give their child) for the classic pb&j’s for the children.

Both have long drawn out directions.  I can be sure that no one will follow these directions on my blog.  Right?  If I am wrong, please leave a comment that you want them and I would be delighted to re-do this post.  I just know the time spent doing it would be only worth while if someone felt a little like baking for the next three days.  It is one hundred percent worth it, if that convinces anyone to comment.

Both breads can be found in Amy’s Bread.  A fantastic book from start to finish.

Lots of rising.  Lots of excitement though too.  It is amazing how much this sponge starter bubbles and froths after you take it out of the fridge.

And oh my, look at those air pockets.  Mmmm…done right. (pat, pat)

And when I say hearty, I mean it. Wheat berries and toasted walnuts.

Bread.  Every good party needs some.

Bread #31 Cinnamon Raisin- and the psychology of bread

The return home to the land of bread and the baking of it in a kitchen a bit too tiny and far too hot for this southern temperature was the first thing on my list of things to do as we returned our lives back to the normal rhythm.   Despite humid air so thick and heavy it is entirely possible I drip dropped a couple of forehead beads into these last few loaves I must admit, it sure does feel nice to be back.

When surrounded by my Yankee friends (and loving every second of it), one particular lady friend happened to mention something to me that took me aback.   After some time to digest, I decided she is nothing if not exactly correct.  She told me yes, she likes the blog (woah.) and yes, she reads it (sweet!), but being truthful with me, she admitted its a little bit frustrating to see all these damn breads I keep making.  It is not so much as the bread, as the time it takes to make I believe that frustrated her.  When looking back at this massive undertaking of a new years resolution, and writing 31 in the title I realize that this is exactly how it looks.  I appear to be one of those super-moms who has two little ones running around, an apron tied on, and a fresh loaf of bread coming out of the oven at all times.  But you must know, it is only how I appear.  On paper.

Without dismissing my efforts, I explained to her quite the different scenario….

These 52 different loaves that (will) come out of our oven and into our mouths is my sanity.  Photographing them, documenting them, and critiquing them (and of course thoroughly enjoying them) is my religion.  For now. It is what a girl who is busy at heart but has little to do, who cannot sit still, who just needs to keep going; it is what she does when there is an easy route down the road to boredom and loneliness but she refuses to take it.

It is the quarter of an hour it takes to pound the gluten into submission that with a few bit of heave ho and touch of taking myself less seriously that brings me back to reality.  Every single time.

To express it in a way I never could, I will take the words of my girl Fiona (and I am pretty sure this was said by Popeye too)- “I am what I am cuz I does what I does.”  Well, If that doesn’t explain it, then I don’t know what can.

I love bread.  It keeps me out of the doldrums.  It is exciting.  It is delicious.  It smells lovely and homey and fresh.  It warms my whole soul when I put my boys down at night, pour a tall glass of wine, pull that warm wafting loaf out of the oven, slice, slather and savor.

I think she got it.

With that, I chose a nice and cozy loaf this time around.  (And two more to follow in the next few days… already made just need to be reported upon.)  Rather than roll up your cinnamon and raisin mix in a swirl, this one just kind dove kneads it right in.  And it turns out, I like that just fine.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

1. Soften 3 teaspoons of yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water for about five minutes.  Add 3/4 of cold water with 3/4 cup whole milk (is there another kind?), 3 tbs. sugar and whisk away.

2. Sarabeth gives directions for using your standing mixer.  If you are lucky enough to have one (I am out of luck these days), buy her book.  I am sure you can afford it.  (That is a joke!  Don’t worry!)  But for everyone else, I have included the way I did it.  Old fashioned and sweaty.  Just the way it should be.  Mix 2 cups whole wheat and 2 cups all-purpose flour with 2 heaping teaspoons of cinnamon and 1.5 teaspoons of sea salt.  Combine and begin kneading.  Knead in one softened tablespoon of butter.  Then another.  And a third.  Knead for about seven minutes more.  I like to set a timer.  It makes me feel accomplished.  In the last minutes knead in 1 cup of seedless raisins.

3. Turn into a buttered bowl and let it rise for about 1.5 hours.

4. Cut dough into two and let sit for fifteen minutes covered.

5. Butter two bread pans and fold each envelope style (rectangle turned folded into thirds sealed thoroughly).

6. Let rise once more with a big plastic bag over both and a hot cup of tall water underneath until the bread is about one inch over the edge of the pan.  This took about an hour.

7. Brush with a beaten egg and bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  I took the bread out of the pan and sent them back into the oven letting the crusts crisp up for the last three minutes.  Rap em’ up and make sure they sound good and hollow.  Cool as long as you can handle it.

8. Devour.

This one makes the most magnificent  french toast imaginable.

Good day to you.  And may there be good bread too. 


My Cat Rules.

Bread #30 rustic potato loaf

Oh, how I thought my days would be filled with time for baking during my visit north.  How very wrong I was.  Bikes, walks, swims, kayaks, runs, and well… ice cream have been the constants in our days for the last few weeks.  So now, truth be told, I am a few breads behind schedule.  Why do I care? you might ask.  I have no idea other than I want to finish my new years resolution.

I did manage to knead up one winner a few days ago though.  It was so moist, with a soft crust after the first day (which was really nice) with an extraordinary potato flavor.  The addition of keeping the somewhat bitter skins of a russet intact, makes for a distinct taste when fermented and bubbly than baked to a golden loaf.  This one is a bread and butter kind of bread.  And sadly, I did not seal it quite enough so it was not an ideal shape for toasting (but I can imagine that would be another tasty way to enjoy this weeks choice).

I happened on the recipe in Baking with Julia, and I do hope anyone who has been reading these bread posts (so many of them come from this charismatic culinary genius) has made the time to go out and get this one.  So, in haste I choose not to post the recipe.  I almost forgot to take a picture as well!  So this is all that was left by the time I got around to it.  And what a picture it is.  Geesh.  I could have taken the time to at least focus!  Ah well.  Better luck next time.

Bread #25 Cooked oatmeal bread and a wonderful summer supper

Alas!  The perfect solution for leftover oatmeal!  This one goes down in the books as most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich bread, most delicious sweet toast option, and most economical for re-using leftovers.  It was also a relatively short process.  Perhaps it just felt this way because my last few choices were fairly tedious.  No matter, it is good.  Freezes incredibly well.  I used an old bread bag to seal it in the freezer which it looks professional to me!  Like the real thing I tell you.  Wait… it is the real thing!  Only better!  I adjusted Mr. Beards recipe so much I feel that I can call it my own.  But to give credit where credit it is due I will say that this man’s recipe was my guideline and inspiration for this weeks pick.  Turns out he copied it too though.  So what do you know?  What makes an original recipe anyways?  I have always wondered where this fine line is drawn.

1 cup rolled oats

1.5 cups water

Boil for about three minutes until fairly hydrated.

Proof 1 tsp. sugar, 4.25 tsp. active yeast, 1/2 cup warm water until bubbly.  Mine got out of control fast.  Perhaps its the warm weather?

Not sure.  Add 1 cup of warm milk, dash of salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar and the oats.  Stir it up.  Mix in flour one cup at a time.  I used an equal combination of whole wheat flour, quinoa flour, brown rice flour and all-purpose white flour equalling five cups total.  Mix until you can knead it.  Knead it until it’s not too sticky anymore.  Place it in a buttered bowl covered with a towel until doubled in size.  Ninety minutes should do the trick.

Punch it down and knead for another 2-3 minutes.  Slice into two equal parts.  Flatten it out with your fingers into a small rectangle.  Fold over onside to the middle (one-third) and then seal it.  Then roll it over onto the other third and seal it up into a little loaf.  Place in a bread pan that has been greased up nice and slick with butter.  Do the same with the other half.  Let them rise covered with a towel until they reach the edges of the pan.  Then plop them in a preheated oven of 375 for 45 minutes.  At this point slide them out of their pans and place them back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes.  This will crisp the bottom and side crusts up really nicely.  Take them out and give them a tap to make sure they sound hollow.  Let them cool completely before slicing.  Dollop of peanut butter.  Slather of jam.  Take a seat outside at your picnic table and take a big old bite.  Enjoy.

Or serve it with potato salad.  So good.

And finish it up with mini blueberry custards.  

Summer sure tastes good around here