Monday, December 31, 2012

Why buy your bread? There's no knead...really!

I have one eye on my steaming mug of tea and the other on the oven clock. Five minutes to go until my experiment is over. Yesterday I came across a YouTube video of Mark Bittman (if you don't know who that is...well, I don't what to say...Google him!) at a New York bakery where they were (and I quote) "baking bread so easy that a six year old could do it". This all started with my New Year's resolutions. Each year I attempt a couple of resolutions. Nothing boring like "lose 5 pounds" (which I need to do) or "clean out the attic" (why?). 2013 will be the year that I master the art of grilling (move over hubby) and bread baking (move over StickBoy Bakery). I thought I might get a head start this New Year's Eve as we have guests coming for a casual dinner (baked shrimp with feta...yum!) before we head out on the town to ring in the new year. Four ingredients and one Le Creuset dutch oven later and there she is! My beautiful loaf of bread. Recipe follows...caveat: you have to start 12 hours in advance, so this cannot be one of those last minute items. Just pull it together the night before. (Preferably after dinner while you are finishing up that bottle of Merlot and listening to some tunes on Pandora. You know that time between "I just finished a yummy meal and want to go to bed." and "This kitchen is a wreck! Where is the kitchen fairy?")

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 cup of water
(yep, that's it)
Put it all in a bowl and stir it just until the flour is incorporated. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let sit for 12  hours (I let mine sit for 19 hours, because I slept in and needed 3 cups of coffee before I could get started this morning!). Turn the oven to 500 degress put in the dutch oven with lid and let it get thoroughly hot. (This is where I'm pretty sure I have one up on the six year old. Who would let their six year old near a 500 degree oven?) In the meantime, dump the dough onto a floured surface, pat it lightly into an oval and then fold it over like a burrito. Turn it upside down, dust it with flour, scoop it up, plop it into the dutch oven and put the lid on. Bake for 30 minutes then take the lid off and bake 15 minutes more or until crust has a nice brown color to it. Happy Bread Baking!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Good Morning, Moon! A scary winter's tale.

I usually enjoy going to my country place in the winter. I love the smell of a pending snow. I love that I can see things along country roads that are usually obscured by foliage. I love that the Christmas tree farms are in full swing by Thanksgiving. In fact, I really look forward to getting out of the city and enjoying the cold, brisk air of the countryside. Usually.

Last Saturday evening, I found myself driving down a backcountry road in the Virginia foothills as I returned from a fundraising event. I noticed that the moon was full and hit the trees at such an angle as to cause the shadows to look like looming creatures. Okay! Okay! Maybe my imagination was getting the best of me, but the creepy Bing Crosby version of "White Christmas" playing on the only radio station I could tune in didn't help. Also, did I mention that I was alone? It was right out of a Tim Burton film. The way the roads twisted and turned made the moon appear to jump from one side of the road to another giving the illusion that the moon was following me. The strange light it cast over everything had a ghostly hue and brought to mind that old North Carolina ghost story of the prom queen who flags down a trucker for a lift home only to disappear when they reach her destination. The twenty minute drive home felt like an eternity. I kept wanting to look into my rearview mirror but couldn't bring myself to do it. I have never been so happy to see my little cabin and my two dogs. After a nice glass of red wine and a good sleep, I was back to my usual appreciative nature. Winter Wonderland had returned. My first act of the day was to pour a cup of coffee, pull on my furry boots and down jacket and head outside to take in the fresh air (and let the dogs pee). Look who was still there! Good morning, moon. You were following me, weren't you? 

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