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My New Relationship With Yeast by Kelly Sears

After the cork pops, the ball drops, and all the decorations are put away, it’s time for the resolutions; the promises.  The time when we vow to turn the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s from the past year into motion in the new one.

The New Year to me is a clean sheet of white paper and a box of ten new pencils.  I love pencils, they allow forgiveness; a quick erase and the to-do list of twenty can become fifteen with just a flip upside down and a couple of sturdy set of swipes from left to right. Pencils allow for breathing room, edits, scratch outs and drafts.  Pen is permanent and seems super strict. For those of you under 25, a pencil is made of wood, has a strip of graphite running down the middle, starts sharp, after a series of bright ideas and big plans, whittles down to dull, can be sharpened again and you hold it in your hand and write on paper. Genius!

With the clean sheet of paper and the sharp new pencil, I write a list of things I would like to learn in the new year. My list rarely includes quitting a bad habit, losing pounds, or starting some new system.  These seem like processes to me; adjustments that require life changes to be successful, and a completely different blog post!

Some years the list includes things I fear, some years it includes things I haven’t made time for, in other years, on the list is something I think I should know, and yet others, that list includes something that seems really cool to know. In 2017 among other things, my list included learning to knit (epic fail), trying bungee Pilates (the comedic value alone was worth the effort), make a really good pie (satisfying), and baking a better loaf of bread (yes!!).

I’m not sure how I could have a friendship that has withstood forty years and a marriage of nearly thirty, and I couldn’t figure out how to have a relationship with yeast.  Sometimes, getting better at something starts with one move, deciding to do so. Whatever material you built the wall from to mentally stop you from doing it, is usually not made of kryptonite and usually crumbles once you make the decision to take action. Even doing nothing is doing something.

Back to bread, I enrolled myself in a four day boot camp in Ann Arbor at Zingerman’s Bakehouse.  For four days I surrounded myself with all things yeast and dough, shut my mouth and opened my ears.  Life Changing!

I embraced this new skill with gusto.  Soon I was baking six or seven loaves of bread a week and had multiple varieties of sourdough starter feasting. I purchased proofing baskets, lames, linen couches, and cast iron loaf pans.  My countertops continually had something rising at different stages and I asked my husband if he could build me a proofing box.  It was at this point, I got the look.  The look you get after nearly thirty years of marriage, the one that requires no words.  This look, in my world, usually translates to “perhaps we are taking this bread thing a bit too far;” grab some reins, apply the brakes.

He’s usually right.  My new found skills tend to teeter on obsession.  In my quest to master, I forget time and space, I forget the real reason I began the journey to begin with.  Learning a skill is all about empowerment; education + knowledge = power.  Once you learn how to do something you didn’t know how to do before, you no longer have to rely on others to do something for you.  Intrepidation is stifling. Remove hesitation and the results are unharnessed creativity and freedom.

As with most things one fears, once you face it, it’s never that scary, and the lessons learned transcend just bread making and baking.  On the journey to soft rolls, French loaves, cinnamon swirl breakfast bread, multigrain sandwich loaf, sourdough boules, crusty peasant bread, and warm brioche, this is what happened…..

Patience– like good conversation, friendship, wine, and marriage, a really good loaf of bread takes time

Renewed commitment – sourdough starter, when ignored for too long dies, if you feed it a little everyday it flourishes.  It only takes a little energy every day to keep the fire burning, without it, the light will go out.

Trust your instincts – even if the instructions say one thing, listen, smell, taste, adjust; follow your gut

Create a good environment – goodness thrives in a happy place

Recycle – stale bread = croutons, toast, and bread crumbs, heals are the best part of the loaf and make the best mop to sop of the bottom of the bowl, mistakes still taste good even if they don’t look good, save some of the dough to create the next loaf, old dough makes new dough taste better

Close your mouth and open your ears – it’s amazing what you can hear when you turn your voice off and your ears on!

Share – most recipes yield two loaves for a reason; eat one, share one.  They taste better that way.

Whatever your paper and pencil have in store for you this New Year, embrace the results.  Even with epic fails, you never stop learning. Keep tweaking; adjusting, trying new things, you just might learn something completely different along the way.

 

Warm Dinner Rolls
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Ingredients
  1. 12.5 ounces water (room temperature)
  2. .375 ounces instant yeast
  3. 21 ounces bread flour
  4. 2 teaspoons salt
  5. 1 ounce sugar
  6. .5 ounce non-fat milk solids
  7. 2 ounces butter, softened
  8. Egg wash: one egg, one tablespoon milk
  9. Sea salt for sprinkling on top
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine the water, yeast and half the bread flour. Stir together until the mixture is shaggy. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Using a bench scraper, spin the bowl as you scoop around the outside of the bowl, tossing the dough towards the middle of the bowl with each turn. Once the dough comes together in a rough ball, spill the dough out onto the counter (no flour!). Work the dough together into a tighter ball and then knead until the dough is soft and smooth. Press the inside of your wrist against the dough, if it doesn’t stick, the dough is ready to rest. (this process should take about five minutes or a little less if you put a little muscle into it)
  3. Place dough in an lightly oiled ball, cover and proof until double in size- about an hour in the right conditions – around 80-85 degrees.
  4. Scale the dough into 1 oz. size; Make up rolls into desired shapes. Place rolls 2 inches apart on paper-lined baking sheets. Proof until double in size (about 30-45 minutes).
  5. Egg wash; dust with salt, bake at 400 degrees until brown – about 20 minutes.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

 

Gratitude in the Small Things by Teri Hiben

teriblog2Yes, things are getting busy. With Thanksgiving dinner and then holiday shopping and baking and visiting, life can get a bit hectic. Recent family health issues have caused me to slow down and reflect on the things that matter. While I’m thankful for so many big blessings like family, friends and home, I’m also thankful for many smaller joys.

I love the way the rain hangs on the crabapples in the back tree, the voices of the new neighbor boys as they play in the backyard reminding me of my own boys. There’s nothing like a great book on a cold evening, the hoot of the owl when I can’t sleep at night. And I think my favorite meal consists of a great bowl of soup and some homemade bread. Simple is many times better.

teriblog1I encourage you this holiday season to take some time to slow down and be thankful for your many blessings, help those who have less than you, look for the good in those around you, enjoy a job well done, show simple kindness and enjoy it in others. And sit down and enjoy a bowl of soup and some fresh, homemade bread.

Enjoy the holidays ahead!

Oatmeal Bread
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups boiling water
  2. 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  3. 2 packages dry yeast or 4 teaspoons dry yeast
  4. 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  5. 1 tablespoon salt
  6. 1/2 cup honey
  7. 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  8. 5-6 cups flour
  9. 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
Instructions
  1. In a large mixer bowl, pour the boiling water over the oats and let the mixture rest until the oats are completely softened, about 30 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the yeast with the lukewarm water and allow to stand 10 minutes.
  3. To the oat mixture, add the salt, honey and melted butter; combine, then stir in the yeast. Gradually add enough flour to make the dough soft and kneadable. Knead for 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed. The dough should be elastic, soft and smooth.
  4. Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl, turning to coat the surface. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 325.
  6. After the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down and divide into 2 8”x4” loaf pans that have been sprayed with Pam and sprinkled with rolled oats. There is no need for further rising. Brush the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle some additional oats on top. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Tip bread out onto a wire rack to cool.
Notes
  1. This bread freezes well in a Ziploc freezer bag.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 baguette, cut into 1” cubes (6 cups)
  3. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1” cubes
  5. 1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, sliced ½” thick
  6. 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1” cubes
  7. 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1” cubes
  8. ½ red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  9. 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  10. 3 tablespoons capers, drained
Vinaigrette
  1. 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  2. ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  3. 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  4. ½ cup good olive oil
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  6. ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
  2. For the vinaigrette, whisk together all ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season the salad liberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about ½ hour for the flavors to blend.
Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties
Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur
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Ingredients
  1. 2 T. unsalted butter
  2. 3 T. all-purpose flour
  3. 2 cups hot milk
  4. 1 t. kosher salt
  5. 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
  6. pinch nutmeg
  7. 12 ounces Gruyère, grated (5 cups)
  8. 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  9. 16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
  10. Dijon mustard
  11. 8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.
  3. To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted. Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Homemade Naan

Homemade Naan
Yields 16
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  3. 1 t. baking soda
  4. 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  5. 1 T. sugar
  6. 3/4 t. active dry yeast
  7. 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  8. 3/4 cup warm milk
  9. 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  10. melted butter
Instructions
  1. Combine yeast, sugar and warm water and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes or until foamy. In the meantime, combine dry ingredients in medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the center.
  2. Stir milk and yogurt together and combine with the yeast mixture. Pour into the well of the dry ingredients.
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine and then knead by hand a few times until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. When dough is ready, punch down and turn out onto a well floured service. Divide in half and then divide each piece into eight pieces. Press or roll out into a 6" circle - approximately 1/8 " thick. If adding seeds, spices etc. press on the top now.
  5. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Melt a little butter in pan and place dough in skillet. Cook for one minute, flip and cook one minute on other side.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Parachute Bing Bread

Parachute Bing Bread
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Ingredients
  1. 1 T. sugar
  2. 1 cup warm water (100°F)
  3. 1 1/8 t. active dry yeast
  4. 1 t. kosher salt
  5. 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting
  6. 1 T. toasted sesame oil, divided
  7. 8 slices thick cut bacon
  8. 1 medium russet potato, diced
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  10. 1 cup shredded white cheddar
  11. 3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  12. oil for pan frying
  13. 1/2 T. soy sauce
  14. 1/2 t. sugar
  15. 1 T. sesame seeds, divided
Instructions
  1. Stir together the warm water and sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast and let sit until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the salt and flour. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball with only a few dry spots. Move to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and proof until doubled in size, about 50-70 minutes.
  3. While the dough is rising, cook the bacon and potatoes. Cut the bacon into 1/4 inch pieces and cook over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Peel and dice the potato. Place in cold water in a small pot and bring to a boil, cook for 4-5 minutes. Drain well and cook in a touch of the bacon fat over medium heat until cooked through and crispy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  5. Once the dough has doubled, gently punch down and transfer to a generously floured surface. Knead, adding flour a tablespoon at a time if needed. Dough should be soft, pliable and slightly sticky. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces and cover the pieces with plastic wrap.
  6. Take one dough piece, and on a floured surface, roll out until 1/4″ thick. Brush off excess flour and brush with toasted sesame oil and generously sprinkle with potato, bacon, cheese and scallions.
  7. Roll up, as you would a cinnamon or jelly roll and pinch to seal. Coil the roll into a spiral and gently flatten. Place on parchment paper, lightly dust with flour if needed and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  8. Whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl.
  9. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add a generous amount of oil and place 4 spirals into the skillet. Brush with soy glaze. Cover and cook until the underside is golden brown, 5-10 minutes, checking often. Uncover and flip, brushing with soy glaze. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  10. Transfer the cast iron pan to the oven and bake until bottoms are brown and bread is cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Cover with foil if starting to brown to quickly.
Adapted from Parachute Restaurant via Bon Appetit / I Am A Food Blog
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/