Archives for posts with tag: baking

Tomorrow will be my last Thanksgiving as a “single” woman. Next year at this time I will have been married for almost 6 months. It boggles my mind a bit. Our save-the-dates came in, correctly done this time. Hooray! And I picked up my cousin’s bridesmaid’s dress for her brother’s (my cousin’s) wedding. The dress is in NY, she’s living back in PA, but we’re going to Thanksgiving at my grandfathers/father’s place in CT. So it’ll all work out. Remember the “3 weddings in 6 months, one of them mine” thing from a few weeks back. One of the weddings is my cousin’s in March.
I’m making apple and pumpkin pie to bring for tomorrow, and oatmeal-raisin-chocolate-chip cookies for Friday’s fest.  I made pie crust on Monday night, and did my annual search through all of the recipe books to find the one that doesn’t use shortening/lard. ( The only time I’d ever use shortening is pie crusts, but once a year. It’s not worth if to keep in the house.) I always look through at least two before remembering it’s in Moosewood. My pumpkin pie recipe is from Horn of the Moon, and the photocopy that I have has “The Best” written on it. When I was younger, my mother and I would look through cookbooks trying to remember what recipe we liked the best. We finally remembered to just write it on the recipe. I unfortunately slightly scorched the top, but it’ll be yummy anyway.

I accidentally bought too many apples. I’m used to needing at least 10, but the apples I got are GINORMOUS. I have no idea what the farm adds to its soil, but both their apples and their sweet potatoes are huge. I’m guessing it’s just floodplain.

I’ve been hanging out in my house alone this evening. No siblings, no fiance, and hardest of all: no Mom. After my parents split up, making pies with my mother for Thanksgiving stopped. (We did thanksgiving with my dad’s side of the family, and then immediate family only for Christmas. It’s a big family thing on my dad’s side, and it’s important to see them, so Jarak and I go to that, and then do Christmas with his family.) One of my favorite memories from growing up was having the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off from school and spending the day in the kitchen with my mother making pie. My share of responsibility has grown from simply peeling apples and mixing pumpkin pie filling to completing whole pies on my own, with minimal assistance from her, to now making them entirely on my own, including making my own pie crust. And it’s a social thing, hanging out in the kitchen working.  When my brothers were both on this coast, they’d come to my house on Wednesday and we’d make pies together.  So it just feels strange and wrong to be doing it all by myself today.

I appear to have taken the collective baked yumminess of my parents, and what they have traditionally brought to big family/community functions and adopted it. I bring pie on Thanksgiving now that my mother no longer comes to Thanksgiving, and I bring bread to Easter, now that my father no longer comes to Easter. It’s my mother’s pie, and my father’s bread, and in some ways doing it this way means that I maintain my family connections even when they’re not there.
Tomorrow we pack up the car and drive the 2.5 hours to just outside Hartford with pies, cookies, homebrew, local beer and local whiskey (Yay Coalyard!) This year the cousins seem to have scattered to the four corners of the earth. My two brothers in Colorado and LA, with girlfriend’s family and son, and girlfriend’s family respectively,  a cousin in Maryland with his fiance, and a cousin in Geneva Switzerland with her boyfriend. We will have one child from each family with the parents this year. Yup… we’re grownups.

Sundays are my “get things done” days. I am simultaneously making yogurt, making bread, cooking rice and lentils for dinner tonight and lunches during the week. Fortunately, most of these projects involve paying attention to things for short periods of time, and then walking away.

Friday Jarak and I headed to my dad’s house in Southern NH to pick up the remaining items that I had stored at that house. Unfortunately, my parents have had to sell their gorgeous 4 bedroom colonial that we built the summer before my freshman year of high school. It’s on 20 acres of former dairy farm, mostly fields, with a stream, pond and an orchard my parents started when we moved in. Closing is on Thursday, and everything needs to be out by then. The house has felt less and less like “my house” and more like somewhere I visit. I haven’t lived there since I was 22, and after my mother moved out, it felt even more foreign. When I arrive at that house, my dad says “welcome home” and it’s really not home anymore. The apartment I live in with Jarak is home now.

Even though I have complicated feelings about the house, the fact that I won’t be able to visit the property anymore hit me really hard Saturday morning. I had a good cry, and felt sad about it for a while, and then moved on to the hugely frustrating and exhausting task of moving my bedroom furniture down a flight of stairs and into the trailer. We also helped my father move some of the larger things that he couldn’t do by himself into the trailer that he’s using to move.

Packing up my childhood room was strange, and interesting. It’s remained relatively unchanged since the last time I lived in that house. Which means that there was a lot of high school still on the walls. Posters of panthers, artwork I did in middle and high school, the shelf that held the porcelain doll and other delicate girly things that were given to me, the collage of Airwalk ads I tore out of Wired magazine when I was in 8th grade. Very, very high school still. It was interesting making decisions about what things should be moved, and what could be trashed. I found myself saying “I won’t use this, but I’d like to put it in my little girl’s room some day.” Noticing the shift from nostalgia to dreaming about my future girl who I could share my girly things with was interesting. The bed I grew up sleeping in is a family heirloom, and even though there’s no space for it in our apartment, we had to take it, because our first child will sleep in that bed. This whole move was an exercise in planning for the future while acknowledging the current sadness and closing of a chapter.

Over at A Practical Wedding, there’s often a lot of talk about being a team, and doing the hard things together. This weekend I really understood why I’m getting married. Beyond the fact that I love him more than anything, Jarak and I are a great team. We help each other, even when it’s annoying and we don’t really want to do it. Having a partner means that the really hard things are doable, and not so painful and daunting. We each are made better by the other. I could not have done this weekend without him, which I’ve made sure to tell him and thank him for multiple times. Watching Jarak help my dad was really special, because they’re two of the most important people in my life, and seeing them work together really brought home the idea that he’s family now, even if we’re not officially married yet.

Jarak and I have gotten really good at moving recently. We’re also really tired of moving at this point. I woke up this morning and realized that my abs hurt. Our hands hurt yesterday. Jarak was a rockstar and did all of the driving, mostly because we borrowed his step-mom’s car, but also because driving with a trailer scares me, and I had a humiliating experience trying to back up a trailer when I was in college, and have been avoiding it ever since. I really hope that the next time we move, it’s into our first house. For the first time in 7 years, all of my belongings are in the same state. I have moved one particular dresser 3 separate times. (I replaced the dresser I’ve been using with one from my room in NH, so we had to put my old one in storage.)

We’re looking forward to a few weeks (months?) that don’t involve being on the road. In the past month, we’ve gone to a wedding in Burlington, VT, driven to Midcoast ME to visit my grandmother and aunt, and been to my dad’s in NH twice. It’s been a lot of driving, and a lot of not being home. My cat has not been happy with us.

On the up side, now that we have my other bookcase, we finally have space for all of our books. We’re at 5 book cases and counting. I emptied two banker’s boxes of books today.

Now to put lentils and rice away, clean up the kitchen, and wait for the dough to rise so that I can form loaves and bake it. Then either reading or netflix.

There was a request for my bread recipe, and here it is. This is an adaptation of the bread that I grew up eating, which is my father’s adaptation of my grandfather’s recipe. It’s seriously noms. I form it into sandwich loaves, but you can also bake it on a sheet as a boule. You can also add whatever else you want. We’ve added eggs and flax, which slightly changed the consistency, but was still good. You need to set aside about 4 hours for this, but only about 30 minutes are actually doing work. The rest is waiting for the bread to rise/bake. I usually watch Dr. Who or get all my ironing done while I’m waiting for it to rise.

The basic recipe for 2 loaves:

2C spent grain buzzed in a blender or food processor to chop the husks finely

2C whole wheat flour

2C very warm water

1T dry bread yeast.

2T oil (I use safflower, or cooled melted butter)

3T sweetener (honey, maple syrup, or sugar)

1T salt

Enough White flour to form a solid dough, about 2.5 cups

Spent grain sitting in the bowl

Mix the first 4 ingredients together. It should look like soupy oatmeal. Add more water or flour until you get to the right consistency.

Beginning of the sponge. Soupy oatmeal consistency.

Cover and let it sit in a warm place for an hour. If your house is above  70*F on the counter is fine. In the winter, I turn on my oven light and put the bread in the oven, or turn the oven on low when I’m mixing and then turn it off and let it rise in a pre-warmed oven. The sponge should about double in size.

First rise is done. Sponge is about 2 times bigger than it started.

Now add the sweetener, oil and salt. I add a handful of flour to the top before I pour the salt on, because I don’t want the salt hitting the yeast first and killing it.

Sponge with a little white flour, salt, honey and oil added.

Then mix in the white flour. Stir until you can’t stir it easily anymore with the spoon, and then knead it in the bowl to get it to start to form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead it, adding flour a little at a time until it’s not sticky. Keep kneading it until its springy.

Mixing the white flour into the sponge.

Kneaded dough.

Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise again for an hour.  During this time you want to prepare your baking pans or sheet. Make sure they are very well greased or the loaves will stick.

Second rise, ready to be punched down.

After it’s risen, again about doubled in size, punch it down. Literally, stick your fist into the middle of the bowl and make it deflate. Then scoop the dough out onto the counter, divide in two and shape into loaves. I roll mine out into oblong sheets and then roll it up jelly-roll style into loaves. Place your shaped loaves into greased baking pans and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350* while the bread is rising one last time.

Formed loaves waiting to rise.

Bake at 350* for 40-45min. If you used an extra-flour-y spent grain, like rye or oats, your bread will hold more water and will need to bake for longer. Your house will start to smell lovely after about 30 minutes.

Fresh loaves!

Let it cool on a wire rack with a clean dish-towel draped over it so it doesn’t dry out too much. You’ll want to cut into it right away, but wait at least 15 minutes for it to cool a bit and for the center to finish cooking. Also, it’ll be cool enough to eat by then.

Empty bread pans. Note the bit of stuck crust on the right. Grease your pans well!

I often keep one loaf out and put one in the freezer. There are no preservatives in this bread, and it’ll mold faster than commercial bread. In the summer I keep it in the fridge to avoid spoilage. Enjoy!

I may have mentioned once or twice that I like to cook. I’m trying to focus on mostly-local and organic ingredients. Sometimes it’s not possible, but we’ve been pretty successful recently. We’re very lucky to have an Indian and a pan-Asian grocery store within easy driving distance. This way I can get things like inexpensive fish, baby bok-choy, and 10lbs of brown rice for very reasonable prices. Sometimes local loses to inexpensive yummy things.
Dinners recently have been:
Mixed Shellfish stir-fry with brown rice, oyster mushrooms, mixed veggies and bean spouts
Beer glazed black beans with pan fried pollock, Israeli couscous and salad
Fish Chowder with fresh cod
Butternut squash and coconut curry over brown rice (that one got lots of comments when I had it at lunch the next day, everyone wanted the recipe)
Mixed Shellfish stir-fry with soba noodles, cabbage and other frozen veggies
Baked chicken seasoned with sage, with roasted parsnips, carrots and sweet potatoes. (the parsnips, carrots and sage are all local, the chicken was naturally raised, sweet potatoes are organic)

Yes, I made baked chicken for my boyfriend. It was yummy. We learned that a 4.4lb chicken needs about 10 min longer in the oven than the recipe called for. But under an hour for roast chicken was seriously awesome. We used Mark Bittman’s Minimalist Cooks Dinner “Simplest Roast Chicken” recipe. Now the remains of it are bubbling on the stove making stock. I’m feeling seriously domestic right now.

I’m in the middle of making a new batch of spent-grain bread. We brewed a brown ale a few weeks ago that we meant to bottle this weekend, but ran out of time. So I’m using the spent grain from that. We learned the hard way a few weeks ago that spent grain has a shelf-life of about 2 weeks in the fridge before it starts to get really funky and fermented. I’m experimenting with adding more and more spent grain to the bread as I go. I’d like to get to the point where it’s about 1/2 grain, and the rest flour. I should post pictures at some point.

First, the good things! My spent-grain bread came out well, although it could have used slightly less water, and maybe 10 more minutes in the oven. Next time we buzz the grains in a blender before baking. Barley husks are pointy and have a nasty tendency to get caught in soft places in your mouth. (Which is most of it.) Also, today Jarak and I made spent grain cookies. Oh my goodness so tasty! Chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Yum.

Hard things. My cat Mystique has been acting up. She keeps pooing on my bed. I wash my top blanket, she does it again 3 days later. Clean litter box almost every time. I’m very frustrated. Hopefully it will stop when we move into our own place.

Other hard things, and ones that are way more important: learning to live with the love of my life. I knew that the transition from seeing each other for 6 days a month, (3 at my place, 3 at his) to living together would be hard. I just didn’t realize how it would manifest itself.  We’re having to learn to communicate and negotiate in ways that we haven’t previously. I like to make decisions quickly, looking at the facts I have and saying “ok, let’s go for it” (or not.) Jarak deliberates. He looks at all the options and then mulls them for a while. He gets grumpy when rushed or when he feels pushed into something. I got a glimpse of it this summer when we were planning to go to Seattle for my friend’s wedding, but it really crystallized for me during our apartment search.  I see something and go “yes, let’s do this” and he says “wait a minute, what about these things that need to get fixed.” It’s a nice check for my gung-ho self, but sometimes creates hurt feelings when the whys of decisions or opinions aren’t spelled out, from either of our directions. We keep reminding ourselves to work on communicating better, and that we still love each other. We may have an apartment though. Details when things are solid and signed.

Sometimes though, it’s less Big Relationship Things like communication and more the “we planned poorly and now we’re in a mess.” Last week we got 4″ of snow, and I had an 9am meeting. I pulled Jarak’s big rear wheel drive  Crown Vic out of the driveway so that I could get my car out, and realized that A)rear wheel drive cars don’t handle the same as front wheel drive and B) he had postponed snow tires. Our residential street had yet to be plowed, and I couldn’t get enough traction to get up the slight incline. After fussing and sliding and getting frustrated, and his mom not having any luck either, I finally went and woke him up and said “I can’t do it, the car is stuck, and I have a meeting to get to, can you get up and move your car? Thanks, love you, bye!” And because he is wonderful and helps me out of messes, he did. First gear and patience, (which I didn’t have) got the car unstuck, while I raced off to my meeting (which had been cancelled!) And then he went back to bed. He works nights and 8am is not a time that he often sees. For the record, my AWD Subaru managed just fine thanks.

To end with a Good Thing. Which is a very good thing. I get to see my boyfriend, my partner, Every. Single. Day. That is SO COOL! Even if it’s for 3 minutes when he’s half asleep and I’m headed to work, I can still wake him up and give him a kiss. Every Single Day! And sometimes when he gets home from work after I go to bed he’ll wake me up to say hi, and then let me go back to sleep. I get him all evening on two nights a week, and most of the day on the weekends. (Our days off don’t match unfortunately.) Getting to see him and connect with him every day is totally worth any amount of frustration I have.

Jarak and I keep saying that our eventual kids are going to learn science not from school, but from us at home. We bake, we brew, he got diet cola and mentos for Christmas 2 years ago, I garden. You know… science! However, I’m horrid at physics, because I never had to take it. Unlike Mass and NY, NH doesn’t require physics to graduate high school.  A year each of bio, and chem and one other science,  and 3 years of math, but no physics. Go figure.

Grolsch style bottle. We have the second from right style.

We have been using Grolsch bottles for our saison and recycled 360 Vodka bottles  for our mead. Note, both have swing tops. Who’s the kid who tries to open each bottle by pulling up on the bottom wire? Me. Jarak turned one around and pushed the hinges with his thumbs. I go: ” why did I never think of that?” And he says “I took physics.” and smirked as only he can. It was quite amusing.

360 Vodka bottle

So we made a sylvan stout this weekend that will be super-tasty. It’s modeled after the super-delicious Pretty Things beer  Babayaga. See? They’re nice enough to give us a basic recipe.  I want to call it “Chicken Legs” and see if anyone gets the joke.  And we made a hyssop-yarrow beer from the second runnings of the grain. Both are bubbling away nicely now that we kick-started the yeast by keeping upstairs for a while  where it was warm.

We saved the spent grain from this batch of beer to make bread with. There are a million spent-grain bread recipes out there, but I couldn’t find any that I really liked. Most of them are based off of Mark Bittman’s No Knead Bread recipe.  But I have neither the space or the dutch oven for it.  I considered using this one, but then thought “wait, I can make bread, why not just add spent grain to my existing half whole-wheat half white recipe.” So I did. I have the sponge rising right now.

No, I have no idea what the measurements are, because the only two things I measure in the first part of baking is the 2 1/4 cups of water and the 1 tablespoon of yeast. I add flour to make it look like soupy oatmeal and  then let it sit in a warm place for an hour.  The rest of it is fairly straightforward. After the first rise add 2T sweetener, 3T oil and 1T salt. dd flour until it’s not sticky, knead it until it fights back when hit, let rise again for an hour, pound down  and shape into loaves. Let it rise until doubled in size and then bake for 35min at 350*F. This is the same bread that I’ve been eating since I was eating solid food. In my house we call it “Daddy Bread” because my dad is an expert at it. I’m getting pretty good at it too at this point.

This is why we need a big kitchen. I bake, he brews (I help), I will eventually get into canning and other preserving methods. We need a kitchen we can acutually do stuff in.