Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Saturday Oven-side

As a post script to the tofu scrambles - I baked up an acorn squash and put the tofu scramble in the hollow along with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, pinenuts and rosemary. Rosemary did indeed prove herself to be quite welcome to the party. In fact, I suspect that Rosemary, pine nuts and olive oil would have done just fine even without the scramble. Although the stuffing of food into food is always cool.

I daydream about baking another acorn squash with a cornbread stuffing and perhaps with a tiny bit of chicken sausage crumbled in. This would be an experiment for post-POLAOWN. But I suppose the cornbread part could happen now.

I also tried to bake some potatoes with the thought of topping them with some veggie chili and going all mad with the dairy: sour cream, cheese, and butter. Clearly I have given up on giving up dairy. That being said, I have been eating much less cheese than usual. Baking a potato sounds simple. Prick the skin, wrap in foil, baked until cooked. Unless you are hungry and antsy and insist on opening the open every 5 minutes to check the progress of your potatoes. In that case, it is very hard. The Fella preached patience. I only half listened.

Acorn squash does not mind if you open the oven to take a look. It will proceed calmly and steadily on its baking way. The potato, on the other hand, takes this as an affront to its ability to handle heat and will stubbornly hang on it's raw crunch in protest.

The Fella warned me that semi-baked potatoes smothered in dairy and chili would be plenty of food and that the acorn squash would be too much. He was right. Having that much bulky and filling baked vegetation at one meal induced extreme drowsiness.

After spending the better part of the day in a woozy cotton-y haze, I decided to tackle the bread baking yet again. This time with the guidance of the Fresh Loaf. I ran out of flour two cups into measuring out for the dough. So with my yeast bubbling in water that was 103 degrees (according to the thermometer), I threw on boots and a coat and ran to the grocery. I got bread flour this time to see if it would make a difference.

I had 2 cups of all-purpose and one cup of bread flour. And while kneading, I added bread flour where more flour was needed. Let me tell you, bread flour is a different animal. It's grittier than all-purpose. And for the first time, I had a ball of dough that put up a fight while kneading. People warn you that kneading dough is hard work. In my previous two attempts at bread making, I never understood this. The dough was never that tough to work with and was usually pretty pliable. But with the addition of even just one cup of bread flour I was working up a sweat.

I kneaded the crap out of the dough. Well over the recommended 10 minutes. The Fella witnessed my hysterical (as in not funny) predictions of doom with regard to the bread. When I opened the oven to look at it, things did not look good. It looked like a big pale rock with a thick incredibly hard crust. I do not know what professional bakers do to get that gorgeous browned crust. It will probably take some research to find out. So with much cursing and whingeing, I decided to try a cheat - melted a few pats of butter on the top and threw it back in the oven for a spell. Which probably did nothing but let me feel as if I had at least tried to do something about the situation.

The results were not up to my bread baking fantasies but definitely not as bad as I had feared.

It weighs a ton. It's a fairly flat loaf. The crust is impossibly hard. And on the inside, the crumb is dense but at least has more of a bread consistency and is less biscuit-like. Progress!!! Next time I will try using all bread flour and trying to be more patient with the rises. And I will start the process before 5pm so that the bread is ready before 11pm.

(Jargon for the day: BE told me that the outside of the bread is the crust and the inside is the crumb.)

Besides the uncertain and hysterical cooking, it was an evening warmed by the oven, frantic kneading, hugs of anticipation, and spontaneous dance to songs sprung from the radio in my subconscious. I've done a lot worse on a Saturday night.

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