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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.

No Knead 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.

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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.

~Sage

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Well, as we gear up for my Grandmother’s 90th Birthday Pig Roast this long weekend, I thought I would share with you another “eat outside” experience we already had this summer. I am taking “national eat outside day” to also mean “Cook Outside Day” and as everyone knows everything tastes better when cooked with fire and then consumed quickly (outside) while it is still hot and steaming. I’m not sure why everything tastes better outside. Anyone have any answers? Maybe one is just ravenous after a day of hiking or canoeing, or perhaps our senses are heightened when in the great outdoors. Whatever it is, I have eaten pine needles that tasted divine when accidentally sprinkled over supper and I have enjoyed a can of Spam and melba toast scarfed back on a survival excursion that tasted like an Easter ham! Strange, but true.

This family vacation we visited my parents cabin at Shuswap Lake where their neighbour and good friend has a home made outdoor oven. I was very excited to fire that baby up! My hubby and I have plans to put in an outdoor oven on our patio “sometime” and we already have a perfect spot that doesn’t need to be renovated or built up to make it “fire proof” – we just need to remove an enormous six foot tall waterfall. So, needless to say, we had a good time with my parents baking up some goodies. That oven got very hot. Too bad we didn’t have some pizza ready while we waited for the temperature to come down to the 300-400F range to bake bread. Oh well . . . next summer!

In other news we introduced our friend’s kids to their first eating outside experience – S’mores! They loved them. It was so much fun and the mama bear and her two cubs decided to stay away so we could enjoy ourselves.

Enjoy the photos of our baked goods and I’ll try get around to posting pics of the Pig Roast this weekend.

via Saskatchewan,
J

Removing the fire and coals after the entire oven is hot.

Brought the risen bread over on the ATV.

Three years old is not old enough to play with fire!

This won’t hurt a bit, my pretties.

[Ed: Onion buns? ]

It’s hard to wait for them to cool….

We might have baked to keep us through the next few days, but the best part is trying something straight out of the oven!

Quite possibly the best cinnamon buns ever . . .

What can you say about Zucchini Bread? It’s fine, but it’s not special.  I find it really hard to get excited about something so mundane.  I know that might sound hypocritical coming from someone who can wax poetic over the glories of a grilled cheese sandwich.  But, what can I say?  I love cheese and, well, zucchini is just zucchini.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like zucchini.  It regularly appears in my stir fry.  And, it has proved a good understudy for Japanese eggplant in my “Thai Red Curry with Chicken.”  Most frequently I add grated zucchini and carrot to my marinara to bump up the nutrition quotient.  But it really is just a delivery system for other flavours.  It has no flavour of its own and the texture is a bit dubious as well.  That said, I do have a really great recipe for a “Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake.”  It’s rich, moist and delicious.  But, alas, the recipe is lost in a mountain of yet-to-be transcribed recipes… in a box, in the den and not likely to see the light of day until later this summer… perhaps.  I enjoy a good zucchini loaf from time to time, but really it’s the nuts and spices that I like.

Zucchini Muffins Ready For the Oven

So, what to do about Zucchini Bread day?  First, I was determined not to make the traditional sweet loaf.   Like I said, that’s all about the nuts, not so much the zucchini.  I searched my favourite website for inspiration and lo and behold… I found my perfect muse.  Epicurious.com has a recipe for tea sandwiches that sounded perfect – Radish Sandwiches on Zucchini and Basil Muffins.  The recipe is from the July 1990 issue of Gourmet and is meant for a summer buffet kind of presentation.  I decided to make regular sized muffins and skip the radishes but the primary goal was achieved.  No sweet, nut-filled loaf for me… instead I got a savoury bite of basil infused goodness.  I had my fresh-from-the-oven muffin with a slab of feta cheese and a few slices of cucumber.   It was the perfect accompaniment to my afternoon tea.

Not a bad afternoon snack. Good enough to go back for seconds actually!

Okay, so these muffins are really all about the basil instead of the zucchini.  But, that little green squash pulled its weight.  The muffins are moist and light, just what you would expect from a bread that uses more vegetable and less fat to create the texture.  Really, it’s the zucchini that makes that chocolate cake so good too.

The real test for me is to ask “would I make them again?” And, yes, I believe I will.  They are a nice addition to the brunch table and they held well over night, so they would be good in a picnic basket too.  I guess there was something to get excited about after all.

Bon appétit,

Della