Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Baking Bread or Waiting For A Sale; The Art of Exercising Patience

The carved wooden bread tray has been calling my name for years.  Its simple smooth sides with a shape that hugs the finest of baguettes.  The warmth of its timber so inviting. Must ... not....succumb to its pricey beauty.  I kept telling myself the $5.00 bread basket I already have has dutifully served my needs for years.

WAIT A MINUTE...a sale! Let me check....

Could it be? Are my eyes deceiving me? The handsome treasure is on sale. Sold along with a few other needed items! Sorry little $5 bread basket. You'll find a good life with another family.

To begin with, the tray really didn't cost much ($25).  A purchase of this nature seemed like a little luxury I was having a hard time justifying.  But put that baby on sale by 25% all the justifying in the world was easy to come by.  For example I could use it as a lovely centerpiece in addition to being a mere bread tray.  Just saying....

By waiting for the right price point (in my head), my now wooden bread tray was chosen with love.

Can't the same be said for the tray's original purpose?  A freshly homemade baguette nesting in the tray only further symbolizes the rewards of exercising patience. 

Anyone can go buy a ready made baguette these days.  To really appreciate a good loaf as I readily do, I attack making bread myself.  You may remember my love affair on this subject, if not click here.  Rolling up my sleeves this last weekend, I let time do its job and  made what I hope is the first of many homemade breads which will have a brief residence in my beloved tray.

Marc's Homemade 5 Grain Bread

Chef Marc Bauer

From the Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 cups water
1 tsp dry yeast or 1/2 oz fresh yeast
2 tsp honey
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp flax seeds
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp rolled oats
2 tsp salt

First, soak the sesame, pumpkin, flax, rolled oats and sunflower seeds in warm water for 20 minutes.  Then drain.

Mix the two flours with the water, yeast and honey for 2 minutes in a mixer using the bread hook attachment.  Let rest for 20 minutes.

 Add two tablespoons salt and the soaked seeds to the flour mixture.  Mix for 5 minutes. 

Cover and let rest for 15 minutes at a minimum temperature of 72 degrees F.

Turn out onto a floured work surface.  Shape into an 8" loaf by first flattening the dough into a rectangle about 8x5 inches, then rolling it up toward the 8" side.

Place in a 8" loaf pan or free-style it on a jelly roll pan that has been oiled or use a silpat.  Cover and keep warm, about 72-77 degrees F, until the dough doubles in volume.  I let it sit for another good hour.

Remove the cover and place in a pre-heated oven of 425 degrees, baking 25 minutes.  If using a convection oven, lower heat to 400 degrees and bake 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Remove immediately from pan and let rest for 15 minutes before enjoying.

What a satisfying reward in overcoming a few of life's impatient moments.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Taking Stock ... A Cook's Connection

Guest Blogger, John Avey

I was in the kitchen the other day doing one of my favorite and admittedly mindless tasks -- chopping up stuff I was going to use to make a stock. Carrots, celery, onions, herbs, garlic gloves and a chicken carcass were all going into a big pot and in a couple of hours we would have a gallon of stock to use as needed. My favorite knife, a glass of wine close by and slowly sipped, music low in the background and my thoughts free to run through the tall grass of my imagination.

Suddenly, I was transported back to some Medieval castle kitchen!  There, in my minds eye, a cook, one of many in the large room -- knife in hand -- slowly chopping away at vegetables from the local lord’s garden -- all by candlelight.  I smiled at the thought -- this connection to a past time, person and place I could never have known -- doing essentially the very same task I was doing today.

Is there anything else we do today that is even remotely the same as it was centuries ago? Transport this long ago sous chef to my home today and imagine their confusion -- abundant fresh water, both hot and cold.

Magical blue flames constant from somewhere deep underground.

Or a big shiny box that is freezing cold inside and tiny bright orbs that light the darkness! Yet, I could hand over the knife, point to the boiling pot and stock makings -- I suspect they would know just what to do!

Then, like some Hollywood special effect, I time-warped 500 years into the future. Somewhere, someone was standing at a cutting board with a sharp knife and cutting vegetables to go in a stock.  The same task seen from a vastly different time and place.

That was when it struck me.  I loved this mindless task because it is so timeless.  It has not changed in a millennia and hopefully will not change in the next.  Preparing my stock connected me to the past in a way no written story could have.  There is a ton of information about past cooking techniques but there wasn’t a Medieval Anthony Bourdian documenting the gritty day-in day-out view of ancient cooking.

And what about that future sous chef?  Will he or she suddenly find themselves wondering about food prep in the year 2013?

Maybe with all these digital scribblings, they will not have to wonder.  They will know...

John's Homemade Stock Guidelines

Carrot, celery, onion, leek, garlic, fresh herbs, a bay leaf, peppercorns and meat bones/cartilage are all useful to flavor a stock.  Roughly chop to fit in a large stockpot.

Add water, enough to cover all of the goodies you just threw in the pot.

Season with kosher salt.  Bring to a boil.  Then lower to simmer covered for an hour and a half.  Our proxy supervisor keeps a watchful eye.

All the goodness is now permeated into the broth.

Lift out with a spider all the chopped ingredients and discard.

Pour the stock through cheesecloth to another pot to clear out any loose bits.

Save your broth into Mason Jars for future meal making.  Yes, there the Aveys go again with the Mason Jars....
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