Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Monday, December 5, 2011

You Betcha Want This Ciabatta !

‘Bout time we make some darned bread around these parts, isn’t it?  I mean, there’s that pesky title of the place, about “Yeast” and all, and we haven’t seen bread in months !  Literally MONTHS I tells ya !

Bad Roberta.  Bad baker.

Well….it’s not that bread *hasn’t* been being made in the little kitchen (OWWWW, grammatically massacred, much?), it’s just that they’ve all been recipes/techniques I’ve shared with all y’all before.  Like a loaf of my sourdough or two, and some cornbread (no need to share that one, who can’t make cornbread??) and some of that M. Grill knock-off rosemary-olive oil bread.

And this ciabatta.  I actually baked this a few weeks ago, but got sidetracked telling you about it with the surprise that was that cranberry jelly (still loving that, by the way) and the gnocchi.  See, I get easily distracted…..EWW, Pretty !  SHINY !!  GLITTERY !!!!!!!!

And bread, bread….bread is not pretty, shiny nor glittery.  Bread is humble, bread is plain, bread is modest and unassuming.  Well, not really, but you get the idea.  Compared to the flash and dazzle of homemade gnocchi, bread is pretty unpretentious.  But then you pull a fresh-baked loaf out of the oven, and schmeer (highly technical cooking term alert) it with good, sweet butter, and sprinkle it with coarse salt, and of course you remember how sublime good bread is, for all its simplicity.

So, now’s the time to revisit bread, and a damn fine bread this is.

And considering how wet (slack is another term you’ll hear for wet, soft doughs) this dough is, pretty easy to work with, and get an acceptable result from (good heavens, my internal Grammar Police must’ve taken the night off….).  Just take a deep breath, read the technique through, and follow the internal Zen that is working with a slack dough.

Uhhhhhh, yeah.  I’m still working on finding that Zen.  Sometimes the dogs get a little worried when Mazzie’s trying to shape an artisan loaf.

This one, though, because of the signature shape of ciabatta, is pretty much a breeze.  You “plour” (that’s a combination of plunk and pour) the dough onto a parchment, and then gently prod and coax the edges into that “slipper” shape.  Gentle, careful coaxing.  Don’t even try to “shape” the dough into a loaf, it’s so slack that ain’t gunna happen with this dough, and you’ll just get frustrated and yell and scare the little dogs.  We don’t want to scare the little dogs.  Plus, you’ll be tempted to use too much flour to get the dough to a manageable state, and then your bread will be too tough and hard, and well, you’ll get frustrated and yell and scare the dogs.  See caveat about not scaring the dogs, above.  Trust the inner Zen that the little yeastie bugs will do grand things with that blob of ploured dough.

Don’t ask me how I know that yelling scares little dogs.  Nothing that a few doggie treetz won’t cure, though.  Usually.

BTW, Lulu still has a Mohawk…..but I digress.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Another One Off Of The Culinary Bucket List

Are we all done with turkey now, at least for a while?  Everyone raise their hands if you agree.  Yeah.  Thought so.

Let’s see.  So far, I’ve done turkey sandwiches with my lovely cranberry/jalapeƱo jelly, with a side of reheated dressing (day-um but I made good dressing this year), turkey in reheated gravy on mashed potatoes (oh yeah….), a snack of turkey on White Lilly flour biscuits (with more of that jelly) and tonight, turkey seco tacos (spread the shredded turkey on a baking sheet, toss with olive oil, garlic, chile powder and whatever other spices float your boat, throw into a 300° oven until it gets dry, about half an hour, that’s the “seco” and then make into tacos with all the usual suspects….tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cheese, cilantro, avocados, radishes, corn tortillas….).  Those rocked.  I may, may have one more turkey meal left before any dregs go into the freezer for future consideration.  Or, there may not be any dregs…we’ll see what the circling turkey-scarfing vulture dogs have in mind !

Yeah, THOSE turkey-scarfing vulture dogs.  Fresh from the doggie spa, replete with the frou-frou little ear bows.  Rosie rocked the look.  Lulu, ehhhh, not so much.  Sort of like putting a tutu on Peppermint Pattie.  Just….doesn‘t work somehow.

But Lulu most certainly DOES rock this look....

It's Mohawk Puppy !

But I digress.  Amazingly enough, this isn’t about leftover turkey, or even adorable vulture dogs.  It’s about tackling yet another food project *I Thought I’d Never Be Able To Make*.  The culinary bucket list.  We all have one, don’t we ?  Stuff we love, but think we can’t make at home for any variety of reasons.  Involved techniques, amount of time/effort required, exotic ingredients, there can be any number of excuses.  But most can be vanquished with just that little bit of the “courage of your convictions”.

This time around it was gnocchi.

Gnocchi.  Little, pillowy dumpling-ish nuggets of pasta/potato goodness.  Good gnocchi are very good.  VERY good.  Like dreamy, sublime good.  Like, go home and fantasize about gnocchi for a month or so good.   I’ve had that kind, rarely.  But often enough to know that’s what I aspire to.

Bad gnocchi are, well, really REALLY bad.  Leaden.  Heavy.  Dense, sodden little gut-bombs that sink to the pit of your stomach, not to mention your soul, and leave you not only with a bad taste in your mouth, and a sick feeling in your tum-tum, but a fear and loathing of ever trying to make them at home, let alone ever eating them again.

Because….they’re hard to make.  They have to be.  Because anything that’s THAT good (when they’re good) and THAT bad (when they’re bad) can’t be easy.  But after growing increasingly frustrated with the gnocchi I can find commercially i.e., frozen, dried/dehydrated and/or fresh/refrigerated (with nice green mold as an option, apparently, see an earlier post about a summer veg gnocchi dish…), I was toying with the idea of breaking down and trying to make them from scratch.  But it all seemed, so….daunting.

And then I was presented with another lovely, petite butternut squash from The Growing Experience.  Literally the same day, I was channel-surfing, and found a repeat of an ancient “Good Eats” (I *heart* Alton) episode on Cooking Channel.  It was about making…..butternut squash gnocchi.

I figured it was a Sign From Above.  Or sumpthin'.