A Lazy Afternoon
May 5, 2010, 1:44 am
Filed under: Breads, Drinks, Food and Recipes | Tags: ,

Nothing is better than getting up for work at 5 am, taking a shower feeling tired, all you want to do is get back in bed…

And then, low and behold, you get the phonecall that you’re not needed and you can stay at home. Priceless. Quickly followed, of course, by crawling back into bed, sleeping late, and having a lazy day at home.

There’s one favorite way I have of spending a long afternoon home alone. I catch up on my tv shows, make homemade bread, drink coffee, and tend my little growing plants…all from pajamas. And the dogs do the same. It’s a lovely day.

I don’t think that I have ever shared my love of breadmaking with you. There is something serene about the kneading, patience, and gentle loving that breadmaking takes (not to mention the lovely smell in the house as the bread cooks). It’s a rewarding process, and is not that difficult with a little patience and know-how. I first found the recipe here, from my long distance friend. I love sharing recipes with her, and just so happened, that today, she was making this bread as well.

I made a variation on the recipe, that worked out quite well. Here’s the little know how that I have figured out along the way…

1. Do not make bread on a humid, rainy day. Your bread will be too moist and soak up way too much flour…end result: dense and never bakes.

2. Rising matters. Not the amount of time that it says on the recipe, use that as a guideline. Go by the look and feel. When the recipe says doubled in size, has it truly doubled in size? Also, the place you choose to do your rising. If it’s cool and airy, it will take longer to achieve your end result. But the bread will have a better texture with a longer slow rise. In a warm and non drafty place, the bread will rise quickly, which can be advantageous in a pinch. My choice: in my oven, with the oven turned off, and the oven light on. It’s non-drafty, is warm from the oven light, but not too hot that my yeast is killed off. I have to allow slightly extra time in rising, but that’s ok. The bread is great in the end: light and fluffy and tall.

3. Don’t confuse yeasts. If a recipe calls for instant yeast, don’t subsitute another. I tried this once, my bread was flat, hard, and not at all tasty: picture cardboard. If it calls for dry active yeast, don’t substitute instant, or your bread will blow up all over the place. Read the label.

4. Don’t make it serious, hard work. It won’t be fun, and it will be begrudging work.

5. The flour amount is a mere guideline. In the recipe above, I usually start with about 4 cups mixed into the dough, and then start working it with my hands, using the rest to help knead the dough and to keep it from sticking everywhere. I usually use right around 5 cups, not the full six that it calls for, but it always varies slightly. The less flour you use, the lighter and less dense your bread will be.

Today’s variation on the recipe:

In place of the listed flours in the recipe, I used –
3 cups bread flour
1 cup all purpose
2 cups whole wheat flour

An addition of a palm-full of dried herbs de provence (italian seasoning) at the point where you add salt

In place of the sugar and honey, I used –
2/3 cup locally sourced honey (if you can find this in your area, I swear it has made a difference in the end taste)

Last, but not least, I use olive oil when it calls for the oil, not vegetable or any other. Extra virgin olive oil, at that. For the flavor.

Call me crazy, but it was the best version I’ve ever made. The result was a light, airy bread, with complexity of flavor. Just right, and will make a nice addition to the dinner table tonight with my homemade meatballs.

On coffee (which we already know that I love), a french press has to be one of my favorite ways to enjoy the intricasies of flavor. The hot water has an amazing ability to extract all the good flavor of coffee, and leave behind the bad. It also couldn’t be simpler to use. Here’s what you do:

French Press Coffee (for one – for two, just double it)

Using a Bodum brand french press, use one level tablespoon of your favorite coffee per cup of water. Fresh ground coffee is better, you want a coarse grind. For one person, you want to fill to the 4 cup line. For two, go to the 8 cup line. I measure this according to standard coffee mugs. If you’re using dainty ones, then 4 cups might be enough for two people.

Place 4 level tablespoons of coffee in the bottom of the french press, a little sprinkling of cinnamon (or cinnamon chunks, which I used and you can find here), and a little, slight sprinkle of salt – to bring out the flavor of the coffee and cinnamon. Pour hot boiling water from your kettle to the 4 cup marker. Give the coffee and water a swirl, and put the lid on the french press. Don’t press the plunger down yet. Wait 5 minutes for the brew, plunge it down slowly to help emulsify the oils from the coffee into your cup, pour and enjoy. It’s shown here with a little dollop of vanilla flavored whipped topping. It was a nice addition.

May you find ways to soak up your lazy afternoons, maybe even with homemade bread and coffee…


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