Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bread Machine Bread


The bread machine is a strange beast to me. I have never made anything in a bread machine. I always thought that it was a fine machine, but nothing I was interested in. To me, its about the process. It's seeing the dough come together, feeling the smooth elasticity in the kneading and the shaping of the dough.

However, there was a contest I was a bit interested in and one of the categories was bread machine white bread. So, I dug through my mother's cabinets and found her bread machine. I read the directions and decided to whip up some traditional white bread. It seemed easy enough. Pour the ingredients into the pan, push the buttons, wait three hours and I will have fantastic bread. Lo and behold, beautiful fluffy white bread emerged from that machine. I was stunned. Why didn't people make bread in bread machines all the time? I mean, making bread from scratch takes time and effort, but bread machine bread makes itself. If you are having people over and don't have time to whip up a batch of scratch bread, just toss some ingredients in your bread machine and go. My husband and I cut into it and a soft fat piece of perfect bread came off. Then another. Then the third cut and clang. The knife isn't going through this perfect soft bread. What is going on? We flipped the bread over and the little beater bakes itself in to the bread. What? How are you supposed to have perfectly shaped loaves of bread if you have to cut a huge chunk out of the bottom?

Well, we did cut a chunk out of the bottom and it was still white and fluffy. It tasted good, but it lacked the depth of some of the bread that takes me all day to make (or two or three days). I think that I will continue to use this bread machine, for whipping up a loaf of bread in a hurry. But I still enjoy the process of making the bread, possibly more than eating the bread itself. So I will continue making my bread from scratch.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eggs

My girls have finally blessed me with some beautiful fresh, homegrown eggs. Right now they are a little small yet to use much for baking, but I guess that is what a kitchen scale is for.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Disasters and frustrations

I tried my hand at some French macarons this weekend. They were a total disaster. So much of a disaster, I do not have a photo. There was no foot. They turned brown. Terrible.


This is Tornado. He is the other sort of beast that I enjoy wrangling. I have had him for ten years through much good and bad. He has been frustrating me here lately because I have recently purchased a new trailer and he refuses to get on it. Now, I just need to train him to get on it, but like those macarons I have never made before, there is a lot of trial and error along the way. Quite honestly, I have become almost fed up with both things (ok, I haven't given the macarons much of a fair try but still) that is until I went to lunch today.

I work in a small town and for lunch there are mainly fast food options. Consequently, I end up eating a lot of Subway if I forgot to pack my lunch. Today as I was standing in line, a new employee waited on me. There was no one in front or behind me so he took me through the whole sandwich himself, no assembly line today. Now I have eaten at Subway countless times. I have been waited on by dozens of staff members, who are usually extremely efficient, getting my sandwich to me in the smallest amount of time possible. But not today. Today, this new employee painstakingly arranged my spinach and tomatoes. He carefully counted out my pickles and onions and squeezed on just the appropriate amount of mayo. Not to little or to much. It struck me that a sandwich I had eaten so many times could be so lovingly prepared. Something that was typically slapped together, today was carefully arranged just so.

It made me contemplate how vary common it is for me to rush through a task, especially in baking, and then am frustrated with the result. How if maybe I were more conscientious with my work, perhaps more success would come my way. I need to learn to be less bogged down by the clock and to just enjoy the time I have with each task be it learning a new recipe or trying to load my horse on trailer.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

English Muffins



My husband is a breakfast food fanatic. Especially if this breakfast food entails eggs of any variety. Consequently, we frequently eat breakfast for supper, especially if there has not been a trip to the grocery store in quite some time. Since I got home from work before him, this particular day, I decided to make English muffins to accompany our eggs.

English muffins are surprisingly easy to make. The English muffin recipe that I use is from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice (big surprise). It is made using the direct dough method, so you can decide on a (sort of) whim to whip these up. They only take a few minutes of mixing and raise in a couple of hours. One thing that I learned about making English muffins, are that they are initially pan fried and then finish baking in the oven. I have made these before, but had a little trouble because they stayed fat, the muffin did not flatten like traditional English muffins. I then read Nicole's post about English muffins that stated if your dough was too stiff, the muffins do not flatten out appropriately. I then increased the water a bit and had more success this time.

My husband and I made bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches with them later that evening and the next morning I enjoyed another one with butter and jam. The key to getting the signature nooks and crannies is to fork split the muffin, not to slice it with a fork. They quite delicious. Next time I may change it up a bit and add some whole wheat flour or maybe some raisins.

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