My aunt and uncle, Tom and Anne, live about 1 1/4 miles down the road from me. Their house was my second home growing up, and their two daughters are more like sisters to me than just cousins. Tom and Anne travel a lot. Since I know their house better than anyone else, when they go away, I house-/pool-/cat-sit for them. This is especially fun in the summer because they have a really nice pool. Like it's not payment enough that I get free reign of their pool whenever I want, Anne usually gets me a really cool "thank you" gift from wherever they have been. A couple of weeks ago, she got me an extra pair of hands for the kitchen:
I know -- that's an extremely overused, cheesy, tacky cliche, but I'm coming down with another stupid cold*, and am feeling rather uninspired as a result.
My two latest "things" are old cookbooks and bread. There's a great used bookstore in downtown Bangor called Lippincott's, where Kevin and I have been spending a fair amount of time lately. They have a great cookbook section. Now that I'm on a bread kick, I dug out a book I bought there in May. Shockingly enough, it was near the bottom of a pile of other cookbooks.
It was originally published in October of 1970 (hey -- that book and I are the same age!), and this is an edition from that year. I have seen an updated version around, but this is much more fun. It's a very hippy-dippy, crunchy-granola kind of book... right up my alley! I was reading it as I lay in the hammock at my parents' house this afternoon, and the following passage jumped out at me: "Certain items will assist you in making bread, though few of them are strictly necessary. Heavy, brown, ceramic bread bowls are available. These hold and distribute heat well. Pre-heating the bowl allows the baby bread dough to feel at home and warmly held." What a happy thought. I want a heavy, brown, ceramic bread bowl.
* Yes, I just had a stupid cold in June. Before that, I hadn't had one in more than two years!
Now, don't you think that if you can't go five minutes without sneezing and blowing your nose, and you can't talk, and you're at the height of contagiousness, that maybe you should stay home for a day or two, for your health and that of your co-workers?!? ESPECIALLY when you and a certain co-worker (me!) tag-team on a switcher, and trade off the headset/mic? See all those buttons and levers on the switcher? They hold a lot of germs! Those disinfectant wipes aren't all they're cracked up to be.
I've been reading the "Anne of Green Gables" series this summer... it's almost as good as the "Little House" series... almost. Every time Anne eats some of Marilla's plum jam, I drool. All I can think about is the plum thicket on my grandfather's land, where my mother and I pick grape-sized, red-skinned, yellow-fleshed plums in the fall, if the deer don't get them first. Plum jam is not something that's common around here. But thinking about those tiny, sweet-tart plums, how can plum jam possibly be bad? I embarked on a mission. I came up short at the grocery store, but I found some organic plum jam at the Belfast Co-Op. Yay!! It's called St. Dalfour Deluxe Fancy Plum Spread. The label reads: "An Old French Recipe. A delicious fruit spread made in France by an old recipe. Fancy Plums sweetened only with grape juice concentrate. By gently cooking in the tradition of the French countryside, the natural flavor of the fruit is conserved." Translated from French, non? =) It's a lovely shade of golden amber -- much like the color of honey. I decided this was the closest I was going to get to what Anne ate on P.E.I. a hundred years ago.
Now... what's the best way to eat this jam...? Homemade bread, of course. But what kind? Oh, my head. It has to be just right. Old-fashioned. What kind of bread would Anne have had? A search for that info turned up nothing. I though about making something from my "Little House Cookbook," with the logic that Anne's and Laura's time periods were not too far apart, but then decided that would be like Crossing the Streams or something. Then I thought I'd make Anadama bread, an old-fashioned New England bread. New England is close to PEI! I finally decided to stop thinking so much and just make what I feel like eating. Something chewy and seedy. Something hearty, but not too dense or heavy. I bought some 7 grain and seed mix and some whole rye flour at NLC (Natural Living Center -- Bangor's health food store) the other day. They were calling to me. I got out one of my favorite bread books, "The All-New Ultimate Bread Machine Book," by Tony Lacalamita. I highly recommend it. Don't let the name fool you, though -- as is my usual method with bread baking, I use his recipes to make dough in my machine, but I always bake it in the oven, as a loaf or rolls or whatever suits me at any given time.
After two days of flipping through the book and marking recipes, I decided on "Mulitgrain Bread." How original of me. It's just what I want right now, though. Here's the recipe:
1. All ingredients should be at room temperature. Liquid ingredients should be approximately 80 degrees F. Add ingredients in the order specified in your bread machine's owner's manual.
2. Select basic cycle and normal or medium crust.
3. Remove baked loaf from pan at the end of the baking cycle, and cool on a wire rack at least one hour before slicing.
I, of course, couldn't just let the recipe be. Instead of flax seeds, I used my 7 grain and seed mix. The ingredients aren't listed on the bag, but I positively ID'd cracked corn, flax seeds, cracked wheat, and millet seeds. The rest is left to my imagination. I just hope I don't crack a tooth on something in the bread! I substituted it one-to-one for the flax seeds.
I've been dying to try fresh yeast in something, instead of dried granules. This seemed like a good place to start. I read in another bread book the other day that fresh yeast isn't recommended for bread that will be baked in the machine, but it's fine if you're just mixing dough in it. That's me! What fascinating stuff fresh yeast is. It smells so good, and had a really odd texture. It's more solid than I expected it to be... almost like Fimo or Silly Putty, but it flattens, then breaks up, instead of stretching. As I crumbled it into the machine, I had a moment of panic -- would those lentil-sized chunks of yeast actually break down, mix thoroughly into the dough, and make it rise?
They did. After the first rise, I dumped the dough out of the pan, deflated it a bit, and let it rest for a few minutes. The resting is something I've read about many times, but never tried until very recently. I was always too impatient. But what a difference it makes! I could never figure out why bread dough was so hard to manipulate into a loaf shape. Now I know... just ten little minutes make it so much easier to work with. After resting, I rolled it out into a rectangle, rolled it up jelly-roll-style, and put in into a pan. I made the 1 1/2-pound loaf, which normally would be baked in a 9x5 loaf pan. I, however, have these really funky pans I got at The Good Table in Belfast.
The smaller ones are the traditional 8x4, but the larger ones are 10x4 1/2. It all seems to work out in the end. I love these pans. They're aluminum, so the crust doesn't get too dark, and they're dimpled all over, so as to release the cooked bread more readily than a smooth pan.
Another rise, for about an hour. I find that the best place to proof dough in my apartment is in my oven with just the light on -- no turning the oven on! It's warm and draft-free, just like all the recipes want for rising dough.
Into a 350 oven for about 45 minutes, and...
I can only hope Anne enjoyed her bread and plum jam as much as I enjoyed mine.
I may have mentioned this before, but I love to bake. I love to cook, but more specifically, I really love to bake. There's something about scooping flour into a measuring cup, leveling it off, and sifting it into a bowl that is just so satisfying. I know my Rubbermaid measuring spoon set so well I can choose the correct spoon without even looking at the markings. I love mixing eggs, milk, and vanilla together with my stainless steel whisk. The precision that baking requires may drive some people crazy, but it totally relaxes me. I think I may have some anal retentive, obsessive-compulsive issues. =)
I was really, really,really in the mood to bake some bread today... but by the time I got home from work, hung out with Kev for a bit, went on my appointed afternoon rounds, and got home again, it was almost 5:00... and that's just too late for me to start a three-hour baking project. I resigned myself to making something from the quick bread department, and found a recipe in my "collected recipes binder" for "Ginger-Pear Muffins." How convenient... I had a pear and some fresh ginger left over from my IMBB? VII project!
Makes 12 Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup liquid egg substitute or 2 egg whites
1 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely diced dried pears (or diced, peeled fresh pear)
1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger (or 1 teaspoon grated fresh)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a standard muffin pan lightly with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir to blend well.
In a small bowl, combine egg substitute, milk, applesauce, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Add to dr ingredients. Stir with a fork just until batter is blended. Do not overmix. Gently stir in the pears and ginger. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each cup almost full.
To make topping, stir together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of the mixture over each muffin. Bake until the muffins spring back when touched slightly and the tops are golden, about 15 minutes. Cool in the pan 5 minutes, then remove and serve warm.
Protein 3.7 g
Carbohydrates 21.5 g
Cholesterol 0.4 mg
Total Fat 0.3 g
Sodium 114.1 mg
Source: Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish
Like I didn't already have a mountain of dirty dishes from the weekend... there go a few more!
As usual, I made just a few changes... I used fresh pear and fresh ginger, and left the pear unpeeled. Their skins are so thin, you barely notice them, and I really don't see the need to strip away all that nutrition and fiber. I used one whole (organic!) egg instead of egg sub or two whites. I'm not afraid of one whole egg spread out between that many muffins! I used 1% (organic!) mik, because that's what I have. I really don't care much for skim milk, and as little as I actually use cow's milk, I don't worry about the few extra calories and fat grams in the low-fat stuff. I only squeaked 11 muffins out of the recipe. Because my muffin pan is so dark, I baked them at 350. And in my haste, I completely missed that whole "topping" part of the recipe.
They came out really good, though not quite as sweet as I like my muffins to be... probably due to my missing out on the cinnamon/sugar topping. I'm quite sure that would have made a difference! Also, I will use more fruit and more ginger next time I make them -- and there will be a next time. I love healthy, whole-grain, low-fat, low calorie muffins. They make a great grab-and-go breakfast, which is absolutely essential when you work the hours I work! I can throw them into my little lunch cooler, and eat them as I get ready for the show.
>sigh< Maybe tomorrow will be a kinder, gentler day, and I will get to bake my bread. And do dishes while the dough rises.
We had a rhubarb patch in our backyard when I was a kid. I used to make what we called "rhubarb cobbler:" rhubarb cooked with sugar and water into a chunky sauce, poured into a baking dish, topped with biscuit dough, and baked. I loved making it, and we all loved eating it. It occurred to me last week, while thinking about what to make for this month's "Is My Blog Burning? You're Just the Cutest Little Dumpling" that this was a dumpling dish. I decided to stick to what I know about dumplings and make something similar. I browsed Food TV's site and found this recipe, from Emeril Lagasse:
Apple, Pear, and Raspberry Stew with Oatmeal Dumplings
2 tablespoons butter
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
4 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
3 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
3 star anise
1 orange, zested
1/4 cup Calvados
For the Oatmeal Dumplings:
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Calvados
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup dried apricots, rehydrated in 1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a hot saute pan, add the butter and melt. Add apples, pears, cinnamon, candied ginger, cloves, star anise and orange zest and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and add Calvados. Cook another 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a gratin dish.
For the Oatmeal Dumplings: In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and mix well. Drain the apricots and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the honey, Calvados and butter and puree. Mix the apricot puree into the dry ingredients. Spoon dollops of oatmeal mixture on top of the apple and pear mixture. Place in the oven and bake until the oatmeal mounds are golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Now, far be it from me to criticize Emeril or Food TV, but did you notice anything odd about this recipe? Like, oh, I don't know... the lack of raspberries? In "apple, pear, and raspberry stew?" I found it to be a bit strange. I didn't ever see this recipe actually cooked on TV, so maybe it made more sense there. But I doubt it. More on that later.
As you probably have realized by now, I rarely follow a recipe exactly. This one was no exception. First of all, I had no idea what "Calvados" was, nor could I find it at the store. I knew it had to be some sort of liqueur or wine, but that was it. I looked it up this morning. It's apple brandy. I used orange juice in its place, squeezed from the orange I had to zest for the fruit stew.
I usually have candied ginger in the house, but somehow managed to run out. I didn't like the looks of what I found at the grocery store, so I used fresh ginger, finely grated. I don't know what the candied ginger would have tasted like in this, but the fresh was awesome. It infused the fruit and added a spicy perfume to the stew.
The pears I had were pretty big, so I only used three of them. And I left them unpeeled. I did peel the apples, though.
I cooked the fruit a lot longer than the recipe called for. I like my fruit in pies, cobblers, etc. to be good and soft. I let this go for about 20 minutes, I think. You would not believe how good it smelled while it cooked.
I added about a cup of raspberries to the apples and pears just before I poured the fruit into the baking dish, thus making "apple, pear, and raspberry stew!" They added a lot of flavor, and beautiful color.
I also baked the assembled cobbler longer than recommended -- about 20 minutes. It seemed like it needed it.
My "dumplings" turned into more of a crust...
Here's what I ended up with:
Dumplings or not, this is damn good stuff. The fruit is spicy and gingery... the topping is sticky and chewy and oaty... it's like nothing I've ever had before, but something I will definitely have again! It made a great brunch for us this morning. And can you imagine how good it will be for dessert, reheated and topped with vanilla ice cream? The only real disappointment is that the fruit didn't come out so "stewy." There's no liquid to speak of. Next time, I will add some water or more juice or something to the fruit.
So many variations are already running around in my mind. Fruits could be substituted, mixed, and matched. The fruit stew would be great on its own as a compote, an ice cream topping, shortcake filling... a more biscuit-like topping would be really good... I can't wait to play with this recipe more! Thanks, Emeril.