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You may have noticed that with fewer than 10 days remaining in this 365 day project we’re getting a little lackadaisical. Can you blame me for rolling my eyes when this is the seventeenth mention of ice cream on the food list? Sure, we haven’t blogged about every single one, but we’ve covered several, ranging from Rumon’s Ice Cream and Violins Day to J’s mouthwatering Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream Sandwiches.
I think we’ve got it covered.
So, today I am “waving my magic wand” as we say, and decreeing that September 22nd be dedicated to something more wholesome: Bread.
Participating in this blog has fueled my interest in bread-baking. Previous experiments with sourdough starter and home-baked bread wistfully convinced me that I really didn’t have a bread-baker’s schedule, but I’ve never been able to shake the desire to bake, and the blog has only magnified it. I can’t count the number of times since reading J’s Cinnamon Roll post that I’ve reminded myself to buy the Tassajara Bread Book, nor can I count the number of online bread articles that I’ve lovingly saved into my bookmarks folder.
Eva didn’t know this. She also didn’t know how much I enjoyed her blogs on Sourdough Rye and Homemade Bread. Yet somehow she was inspired to buy me “My Bread” by Jim Lahey. I swear she didn’t know I had pored over a half-dozen articles about this guy and his breads. A couple of nights after gleefully receiving the book I sat down and read it cover to cover. Then I bought bread flour and started baking.
If you’re not familiar with Lahey’s basic method it is quite phenomenal. You mix wet dough using a teeny amount of yeast, let it sit for 12 to 18 hours, fold it over a couple times, let it rise for another hour or two, and bake it inside a pre-heated dutch oven or similar lidded vessel inside your oven. No kneading. No fussing. The result is a beautiful crusty boule with a rustic, chewy crumb.
There will be times when you want a soft, fine crumb, and times when you want the ritual of kneading. There will be times you need a loaf in a few hours rather than a day. But the effort-to-outcome ratio on Lahey’s recipes is astounding, and it’s great to have recipe options that don’t gobble up big blocks of (active) time.
I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s full of instructive photographs and helpful guidelines. Beyond the incredible assortment of bread and pizza recipes in the book, he offers up instructions for making condiments and sandwich fillings as well as recipes to make use of stale bread.
To get familiar with his techniques I started with the basic bread. My second effort was the Pizza Bianca – a foccacia-like flat bread baked on a pizza stone. The hardest thing about all this baking is deciding what to make next.
So, I offer great thanks to Eva for giving me an easy outlet for my baking desires. And of course to Jim Lahey and all the other tremendous bakers out there who will inspire my efforts for years to come.
I just returned home from my French class and am thinking lovingly of the chive and cheddar biscuits we had for supper. By “thinking lovingly”, I mean I am eating another one. There is only flaw with these yummy savory treats – they are at their best when straight out of the oven. But that obviously does not stop me.
What is a biscuit you say? You want to know where they originated from? I don’t. I think it might be the spring fever everyone has out here on the prairies but right now I just want to plant my garden and eat all the bounty. I keep on reading all these cookbooks I haven’t seen since last summer and reading seed catalogues to see what should be planted. I don’t really care about the history. I must be that sense of urgency flatlanders have when finally feeling the sunshine on one’s skin and quickly realizing there is only four months left before the snow flies.
If you must know about the history of biscuits read this:
“What’s the difference between biscuits & cookies?
Excellent question! The answer is an interesting buffet of linguistics, history, and technology. The original term “biscuit” derives from the Latin “bis coctus,” or “twice baked.” Ancient Roman armies were issued biscuits as part of their rations. Hardtack, ships biscuit, rusk and mandelbrot descend from this culinary lineage. Advances in technology permitted a wider range of biscuit products. Small cakes and delicate wafers were gradually added to the family of biscuits. In most English-speaking countries, the traditional definition of biscuit remains. In the United States the term “biscuit” was reassigned to denote a small, soft, quick-leavened bread product served piping hot. It generally accompanied meals in lieu of bread. “
I make biscuits quite often as they are a very quick baked good and we love them. Ignore the amount of butter. They are worth it! The following biscuits are from an unknown source and as you can see, the recipe (scribbled by my Mom) is now very thorough. I’ll walk you through it, no worries!
Cheddar and Chive Biscuits
Preheat oven to 425F. Parchment paper on the cookie sheet is a good idea!
In a bowl mix the dry ingredients:
3 c of flour (I used about half whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Grate about a cup of cheddar cheese. I also grated some pecorino romano (it never hurts) and finely chop some chives.
As you can see, the chives are the only thing in the garden, so let’s eat some bounty!
Spring on a cutting board!
Cut 3/4c of cold butter into cubes and add to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until it is the size of peas. Sprinkle the cheese and chives over the bowl and pour in 1 3/4c of buttermilk. Mix with a spoon until just combined. This recipe makes “drop” biscuits and not the traditional biscuits that are rolled out and cut into shapes. This is much quicker and a lot less messy.
Drop by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. I ended up with 10 biscuits. Bake for about 15 minutes until they are golden brown.
In they go!
À la table, mes enfants!