January 25, 2013

Perfect Wintry Day

The batteries died in the bedroom thermostat. I woke to 49 degrees. (For those of you in warm climates, that's 49F inside the house.) Coming from normal people, this would be a complaint. I have never claimed to be normal - I am the odd bird of Odd Bird Studio, after all. I absolutely love that the bedroom was cold cold and I was toasty warm in my wool and down cocoon. Plus, it's snowing squeaky snow this morning. (Squeaky snow is the kind of small, dry flakes that you get when it's super cold. When it accumulates, this kind of snow squeaks underfoot.) I don't need to drive anywhere today on slippery (squeaky) roads and I have leftover potato cheese soup and homemade bread from dinner last night waiting patiently to be my lunch. Could this day be any more perfect?

The soup is super thick cheesy goodness adapted from the potato, cheese & chili soup in Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. I used Gouda instead of the suggested Monterrey jack, used less than half of the called for amount of chili peppers to allow the cheese to be front and center, and I undoubtedly put way too many potatoes in it because they needed to be used up. It's delicious and has the filling, warming effect I expect most people mean when they say oatmeal sticks to their ribs. I never understood that. To me, oatmeal is a light breakfast. Maybe because I eat steel-cut oats and make it fat free other than about a teaspoon of butter per serving? Regardless, 2 hours after oatmeal I'm hungry again. 

The bread is utterly delightful. Nice, hard crust with a lightly moist, tender crumb. I believe this is the first time ever that any bread I made in loaf pans actually expanded above the tops of the pans while rising. This is the first attempted recipe out of my $1.00 score at Goodwill, Farm Journal's Complete Home Baking Book. It's the rye sandwich bread. The flavor of the rye doesn't really come through - so much so that I suspected I used buckwheat flour instead of rye, not so - but I forgive it because the bread is so wonderful.

The contraption in the 2nd picture is how I make bread rise in my less than hot kitchen. Drafts and coldness are the enemies of rising. If you do have a warm kitchen, the contraption will make your bread rise more quickly. I use a brownie pan and fill it roughly half way with hot, steaming water. Place a wire rack over the pan to hold the loaf pans or bowl of rising dough. Cover the dough receptacle with plastic wrap. Put the whole kit and kaboodle on a stove burner at the lowest temperature necessary to keep the water steaming. Do not boil or even simmer the water. All you're aiming for is a gentle warmth. Too hot and you'll begin to cook the bottom of the dough.

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