Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou." ~ Omar Khayyam

Last winter I was determined to become more comfortable with yeast, dough and baking. I did some homework on the Internets and was glued to the television every time bread was mentioned, but mostly I spent money in alarming amounts on more kitchen gear and some awfully pretty bread cookbooks. Along the way though, I managed to do some actual baking and after a couple of tries was fairly pleased with my results. And really, like a lot of things, once you get the hang of it, there's really nothing to it.
Classic Sandwich Loaf
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) melted butter or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup very hot water
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1¼ tsp salt
Melt butter in a small saucepan over a very low flame. While the butter is melting, add the milk to the hot water in a measuring glass, then stir in the yeast to dissolve. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and with the bread hook, stir on a low setting until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed and knead for 6-8 minutes, until the dough is silky and smooth looking. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover and set in a warm spot in the kitchen to rise for a couple of hours. Allow the dough to puff up, but it won't necessarily double in size.
After the first rise, move the dough to a lightly greased working surface and shape into an 8" long log. Gently place dough in a lightly greased 8½ x 4½ loaf pan. Lightly cover with a greased piece of plastic wrap and let the dough rise a 2nd time for about an hour, or until the dough has domed about an inch above the rim of the pan.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes, then start checking the color of your crust. You're looking for a light golden brown. Not too dark, but certainly not pale. If you like, you can take your bread's temperature with an instant read thermometer. At 190°, your bread is done. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and eating. This recipe yields one loaf of delicious bread.
I'm baking bread a couple of times a week now. I've got a sourdough starter that I've managed to keep alive since early March, and I make a mean French boule with it. The only bread I'm still buying in the store is the dark, heavy pumpernickel the Danes love so well with their pickled herring. And it's only a matter of time before I master that as well. You'll see.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Monday, December 10, 2012

White Bean Soup

"Let Omar sing of wine and bread, but I prefer fine soup instead."
You would think a chest-rattling cold would keep me in bed, but two things compelled me to move to the kitchen: guilt and economy.
It's been 13 months since my last blog post. Save for the readers still loyal enough to bitch me out at every possible turn, I was good with that. But seriously, I've missed writing, and more specifically cooking for the simple joy of being in the kitchen. I always knew I would eventually run out of excuses and get back to my pots and pans and that pretty blue flame. I think I've finally arrived.
And what of economy? Well I had some Italian sausage in the refrigerator that was gonna go bad if I didn't cook it soon, and I hate, HATE throwing food away. So, convinced my skull was going to crack open with every sneeze and cough, I willed myself to the stove for some homemade comfort & joy.
White Bean Soup - a Blog.O.Food original
  • 1 16-oz bag dried cannellini beans, sorted and soaked overnight
  • 1 ½ lb sweet Italian sausage (removed from casing)
  • 1 ½ cups yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp red pepper flake
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Sort and clean beans before soaking overnight in plenty of cold water. The next day, rinse beans, discarding any loose skins or beans that float. Add to a large stock pot and fill with cold water at least 2" above the beans. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for an hour (longer is beans are not fresh), checking water level and stirring occasionally. Once beans are nearly soft add salt to taste, do not salt beans before cooking. Remove beans from heat and keep covered.
Meanwhile, give your onions a small chop and add to the oil heated in a large skillet. Cook until the onions begin to wilt and turn translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for two minutes more.
Add the sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon and cook through, just until no longer pink. You can temper the pork and onions with a ladle or two of the bean water and allow to reduce down. Taste for seasoning. Here's is where I add the red pepper flake Finally, transfer the meat mixture to your pot of beans and stir to combine, and re-heat over a low flame.
I felt better after the first spoonful. Too easy, so delicious. The red pepper flake aren't absolutely essential, but I had to clean out my sinuses one way or another, and I never take cold medicine. So it that or pipe cleaners.
Returning to the blog has been a long time in coming. But I'm finally excited to be back. Thanks for your patience and continued support.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Sunday, December 2, 2012

He's Back!

Coach has finally got his mojo back. Stay tuned for toe-curling stories and recipes to match. It's good to be back, y'all.