Posts tagged bread baking

Substance

[Recipe: Whole-Wheat English Muffin Bread]

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I know: It’s not pretty. But pretty was not the point. Thankfully, my goals had more to do with substance than with outside appearance.

I just wanted to bake a loaf of bread. I wanted aroma. I wanted a medium-crisp crust that gave way to a springy and delicate crumb. I wanted something appropriate for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, something that could hold its own equally well with a light slick of chunky peanut butter or a skosh of honey.

Summing it up, then: I was after taste, texture, warmth — all those qualities, yes, but not beauty.

And that’s a good thing, especially since this is often the type of outcome we can expect when we delegate: the results might not exactly meet our unremitting standards. (Take, for example, when you give your kid the job of cleaning the bathroom or making their own bed.)

I delegated the making of this loaf to my bread maker. It’s an appliance that hasn’t seen a lot of action lately, because I’ve been trying to do the bread-baking thing with my own two hands. But today I was in the mood for this specific recipe, and besides, there was definitely something liberating about dumping all the ingredients into the metal bowl and letting something else do the work for once — and then having it taste really, really good.

Even if the result wasn’t much to look at.

Whole-Wheat English Muffin Bread for the Bread Maker

adapted from KingArthurFlour.com

1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (I used a combination of white & red whole wheat)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
cornmeal (optional)

Program your machine for basic white bread, light crust. Midway through the second kneading cycle, check the dough; it should be soft, smooth and slightly sticky. Adjust the dough’s consistency with additional flour or water, if necessary. For a true English muffin effect, remove the dough after either the final kneading or before the final rise and roll it in cornmeal. Place the dough back in the machine to rise and bake.

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And, finally

The end of a year. Are we here again? Really?

Are we quite sure we didn’t skip over something in the middle, a chunk of days and weeks? Maybe time actually, literally got away for once, and we didn’t even notice.

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But no, I suppose I do remember it all: the celebrations, the letdowns, the triumphs, the recurring colds. The days that swept through in a haze of sock matching and sheet fluffing and story typing. And the food! It has certainly been a memorable year in food.

Just to recap, to get it all down for, you know, posterity or my years-from-now self, I’d like to record my top food favorites from 2008. Listen in, if you will, and feel free to pitch in a few of your own.

1. Soft-boiled eggs — It’s true: this is the year I learned to love and make a soft-boiled egg, and what a revelation! What a difference from its chalky, crumbly, hard-cooked counterpart. Each has its place in egg-eating society, but only one can you spread on hot, just-popped toast.

2. Gastronomica — It’s replaced the New Yorker as the reading that keeps me up at night, and that I tote around with me to read at red lights/in the school pickup line/during other situations when I can peruse in snatches. This academic journal is a delightful study of all things food, even those that touch the world of food in a peripheral way.

3. Butter — I always thought butter was the enemy, the thing to eschew at all costs. Now I just want to make really good cookies.

4. Mary Jane caramels — Nostalgia candy without the nostalgia, because they’re new to me. I’ll still hit as many convenience stores as necessary to find a Big Hunk before I go to a movie (it tortures me that they’re so elusive!), but right now these are a close second.

5. The Splendid Table podcasts – I want to be Lynne Rosetto Kasper when I grow up.

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6. Delayed-fermentation method whole-grain bread baking — Thanks to genius Peter Reinhart, I’m like the poster child for before-and-after bread baking. I did my due diligence, studying faithfully the first huge chunk of his book instead of just rushing into the baking part, and at last my loaves are finally worthy (They rise! They’re not too dense! And they’re whole wheat!).

7. Lemon Bars — Alice Medrich and her copious use of lemon zest has single-handedly saved me from an over-reliance on chocolate.

8. Foodgawker.com — Navel gazing for the inner food stylist in all of us. I could spend hours admiring everybody’s handiwork, and it’s always fun to see my own amateur forays in the mix.

9. Fiori di Sicilia — It’s always a happy day when the big brown truck with gold lettering stops at my house, especially when the box that the big brown-uniformed man drops at my door contains food products. Lately I’m dripping hints of this citrus-vanilla je ne sais quoi in every sweet thing from French toast to cinnamon rolls. Yum.

Happy New Year!

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