A ‘real’ working kitchen

034I am guilty of posting pictures of a lot of what I cook on Fbook and Instagram.  I like taking pictures of food — mine or somebody else’s.  I’m not sure why.  I guess I value the creativity.  Or think it’ll help retain the memory of good dining experiences.  Or maybe it just seems like the thing to do.

I get lots of comments.  Things like “why are you torturing me?”  “When should I be over for dinner?”  “Darn, missed brunch again.”  Most of the comments, I think, are people who would like to eat the things I’ve posted.  At least I hope so.

Sometimes, however, I think people think that what gets produced is easy.  It can be.  I do like cooking so it’s not like I feel it’s a chore like some people might.  Most of the time I am doing simple cooking techniques to produce unfussy meals.

026Every once in a while, I’ll go all out and produce something that either takes a lot of time or multiple steps.  These are usually weekend or vacation kinds of moments, but once in a while the spirit moves you.

I was moved by dill.

For our last CSA delivery of the winter, among other things we got a big bunch of dill.  I actually got two since someone left another bunch in the swap box (which for me is a take box most of the time…).  For me, dill often means the Moosewood cookbook recipe for ‘Bulgarian Bell Pepper Casserole.’  I love this recipe but it takes about an hour to assemble and 30-40 minutes to bake so you have to have some time.022

I decided to make this on a Tuesday.  After work.  Starting at 6 p.m.

033Given the lateness of my beginning (which still seemed earlier than some of my cooking lately), I decided NOT to empty the dishwasher of the clean dishes but rather to just start cooking.  This meant there would be no place to put dirty dishes  except the sink which already had some dirty dishes from dinner the night before and then my lunch dishes.  Normally I hate starting with anything in my sink, especially for this kind of cooking which will require a pot for making rice, a pot/pan for cooking the onions and peppers, the bowl of my food processor for handling the ricotta cheese, and sometimes a bowl for mixing it all together before putting it in the pan to bake.  Plus the juicer to squeeze lemons and all of the chopping elements.  And my garlic press.

By the time the pan went into the oven, my sink was piled high and my stove was littered with dirty pans.  I had to laugh.  If people have some glamorous idea about my cooking, this was not it.

020Happily, as the casserole baked, the clean dishes came out of the dishwasher and all of the dirty dishes slowly went in.  It was a full load immediately.  As I surveyed the now clean kitchen just before digging into the casserole, I appreciated again my small but highly functional space and what I can create from the chaos “in the moment.”

And my casserole will sustain me during this busy, busy week at work.  029

With fewer dirty dishes.

Yeast #5: Happy mother’s day

058I am not sure why, but I had the bold and brave idea that maybe my yeast skills had progressed enough that I could share.  I was also eager to try to make the Cuban Bread recipe but to correct for all of my mistakes the first time.  Plus, knowing that it is transformed while cooled, I thought it might be a bread even my picky father would enjoy.  I decided to make another batch on Saturday and surprise my mom with it on mother’s day.

I only had one of the “instant” yeast packs left so I had to use a combination of two types.  Instead of starting with 5 cups of flour, I used 4 and gradually worked in a fifth cup through the initial stirring and the kneading.  Unlike the first time, most of the flour got added in at the kneading stage.

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I will say that the dough going into the bowl to rise appeared to be pretty much the same as my first attempt, so perhaps my mistake wasn’t fatal the first time.  In my climate, 5 cups of flour total seems to be the maximum that my dough can incorporate.  The dough went into an oiled bowl to rise, be divided in half, and formed into loaves.

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After a short rise, I actually corrected a mistake I hadn’t realized I made the first time.  I think because my original plan had been to boil water and pour it into a glass baking dish to sit under the bread while it baked, I hadn’t changed my strategy once I changed my plan.  I decided at the last minute to use a shallow dutch oven, but instead of boiling the water in it, I still boiled the water in my kettle and filled the cold pan.  Of course this reduces the water temperature quickly which makes for a less steamy oven for the bread.

056This time I was able to boil the water in the dutch oven.  I noticed the oven window fogged over right away so I’m sure I had a better humidity level during this second attempt.

I started with a cold oven (mistake corrected!) and a much hotter pot of boiling water and set the oven to 400 degrees.  The bread continued to rise as the oven heated but I still really only needed about 42 minutes of baking time total.054 055057

Ironically, my bread loaf went into the freezer for another day so I’m not sure how it turned out.  My mom has started eating hers and said she liked it.  I’m not sure if dad tried it.  Either way, it’s a nice recipe since it can be started and finished in 2 hours and it doesn’t take a lot of work.  The most active time is the 8 minutes or so of kneading.

Onward with the yeast project!


Cuban Bread, more thoughts

On Saturday I made “cuban bread” as my fourth attempt to conquer yeast.  When 005I wrote my post, the bread had just come out of the oven and I had cut off a greedy corner to eat right away.  At that time, the crust was very crunchy and the inner bread was still what I would call a bit unsettled.  In my assessment, I had written:

It’s different than the slow-rise recipes which have a flavor that develops over a long time of slow rising.  This bread is yeasty from the large amounts of yeast but the texture is more bread-y with small crumbs and without any large holes.  The slow-rise breads have larger air holes and a more sourdough-like flavor.  This is classic, yummy bread.  It’s still shaped like the lovely artisan loaves (two rounds instead of a loaf in a bread pan), so it’s a bit “artisan” in feel and crusty flavor.  If you like crust, this is a bread recipe for you.  If you prefer the inner part of bread the best, then this might not be it.  I am guessing this is going to make a lovely piece of toast.  I can’t wait!

007I was wrong on most of what I wrote except that it does have a small crumb more like bread we get in the store and it DOES indeed make a lovely piece of toast.

I went to a movie after making the bread.  In the time it took me to get home, the bread had been transformed.  I sliced off another piece.  The crust was much softer and the bread itself was AMAZING.  The flavors of the bread (that little bit of sugar, the yeast) had become more pronounced in the not-so-hot bread.  The crust was chewy but very nice.  In all, the slice of room temperature bread with just a little butter was divine.  Like the best white bread you’ve ever eaten.002

It cuts like a dream — easy to get thick or thin slices.  It tastes good by itself or toasted with butter or jam.  I found myself returning to it often over the weekend because it was just so darn good.  Chewy and soft and delicious.  It would make lovely sandwiches, hot or cold.  It was terrific for cheese toast with some mustard, the last of my homemade basil pickles and cheese.009

I am definitely making this bread again.