After a rather extended warm fall, it’s actually getting chilly out. We’ve used the gas fireplace, we’ve been making and eating more soups. Yesterday, D. thought making bread was a good idea. It was a good idea, but yesterday’s effort turned out as four small bricks of what was supposed to be Italian bread. The crust looked good and a slice of one tasted o.k. last night, but they were clearly dense, heavy and hadn’t risen properly. The bread-making effort began while I was out yesterday and we were hoping to eat them with a chili using tomatoes that we froze when they were plentiful, local onions and garlic, beef stew meat from Jordandal Farms and almost every kind of fresh and dried chili that I found at Whole Foods yesterday.
We talked about everything that might have gone wrong with the bread yesterday and finding two jars of yeast in the fridge, I put yeast in warm water in a couple of small dishes with a little sugar and the results couldn’t have been more different in the two dishes. The older yeast stopped giving up any bubbles when all the oxygen was out of it and lay still at the bottom of the dish with clear water above it. The newer yeast bubbled like crazy forming a bubbly fragrant foam on the surface. Who knows if anything else went wrong yesterday, but it’s clear that those loaves never had a chance.
Today, I looked at the side of the bag on the King Arthur’s flour and said, “Hey, I think I’ll make this oatmeal bread to go with the wild rice mushroom soup tonight.” The recipe did give me a little pause because the only flour in it was the bread flour which is a little refined for my tastes, but it did take a whole cup of rolled oats too. It rose really nicely after the first kneading. We actually considered putting it in two bread pans for baking, but I changed my mind after I punched it down. The second time it rose so much and so fast that I had to stop it much earlier than the prescribed time, so I probably could have put it in two pans. It also smelled great when it was baking and looked good when it came out of the oven. One odd direction on the package of flour was regarding how to tell if it was done. They actually suggested sticking a thermometer in it and seeing if it was 190 degrees. Um. No. What happened to looking at it and knocking on it to see if it sounded hollow?
We were in the middle of doing some yard work, so I put it on a rack to cool and when we came in we tried it while it was still slightly warm with the half butter half olive oil spread that I mix myself (thank you Nina Planck) and found it tasty. A bit later, we also found it good with a couple of cheeses and some sausage. Eventually it was time for a light supper and we each had another slice of the bread with wild rice and mushroom soup with onions, garlic, carrots, thyme, rosemary, pepper and a splash of red wine.
I’ll probably use this recipe again, but next time, I think I’ll use whole wheat flour for between one-third and one-half of the flour.
Next weekend, D. can successfully make the Italian loaves and I’d like to make something with a strong coffee stout and some rye flour.
Incidentally, I’m reading Something from the Oven by Laura Shapiro. It’s a fascinating account of the post WWII marketing of processed foods, the rise of crappy food like casseroles based on canned soups and canned meat, ridiculous salads involving gelatin, marshmallows and canned fruit and how both the partial acceptance of these foods as well as a good dose of rejection of them in favor of fresh foods evolved into what we’re eating today.