Saturday, June 20, 2015

"take five" knead bread

No pictures of "takes 1,2,3 & 4" as you've seen one cowpat you've seem them all, right!  This super easy - so simple a four year old can make it - bread caused this 40(ish) woman a lot of grief!

The first four attempts tasted great, they just looked flat.  At first I followed the original Jim Lahey recipe but my dough was very runny - not sure I correctly gauged 1 5/8 cup of liquid as I don't have a 5/8 increment on my measuring cup. Other sites give 1 1/2 cups of water and even 375ml, which was way to much! Given that this bread is commonly hailed as fool proof, I began to trouble shoot - staring from where I'm at!  1020m (3346ft) above sea level which in the realms of culinary alchemy often calls for  some small modifications to established recipes.  In this case less rising time and oddly enough less liquid.  After researching bread making at altitude - 3000ft and over - it would appear that often more liquid is necessary.  Also I'm not quite sure the flour we have here in France is the same as in the US, we don't have 'all purpose flour' which seems to be common place stateside.  Here our flours are mainly classed by number - 55 for cakes and biscuits, 65 for white bread, with the numbers gradually increasing 80, 110, 130 for wholemeal.   I settled on two cups of 65 and one cup 110, for 1/4 tsp instant yeast, 1 1/2 tsp salt for just a little less than 1 1/3 cup water.  10 hours for the first rising and 1 1/2 for the second.

I'm now happy enough with the result.  I think next time if I carefully place the dough in my dutch oven rather than just 'plopping' it in, I might just get the perfect round shape I so desire!

On the up side I've had a few first time success's in the kitchen, which helped temper the bread 'hicups':

Lemon & Mint Syrup

Left Over Oatmeal Muffins
'Nut-emma' - hazelnut/chocolate spread

'Nutella' is making the headlines in France right now after Ségoléne Royal - the environmental minister - trashed the product claiming that it contained very few nuts and lots of saturated fat and emulsifiers (you don't say!).  Her claims don't sit well with 54% of the french population, who believe she is wrong to site one particular product as 'un-healthy'.   Personally I've never bought the stuff 'cause it tastes like grease and my kids don't like it.  They do like, however, the homemade version - which contains LOTS of nuts, cacao powder, maple syrup and a little water.

So what's cookin in your kitchen lately?
Have you tried the No knead Bread experience?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Our Little Den

Just before our last visit to Wales in April my dad mentioned that he had a present for me - it was something new but old, wasn't an antique but could become one and as we were coming by car we would have no trouble bringing it back to France with us.  I had no idea what it could be, and was more than a little sounded like a lot of thought and money had gone into this gift - what if I didn't like it.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

He'd bought me this amazing picture of Strumble Head Lighthouse!!!! 
It came however with a condition, that it be hung over the stairs, opposite the computer table!  The particularity of this area is that ten years after moving in it still hadn't been plastered.

I'm planning on painting the wood wall slate grey (one-day...)
Richard designed and built our house (he's not an architect or builder) and apart from his fathers help did the entire thing himself!  As this space was over the stairs it would need some pretty inventive (home made) scaffolding and quite frankly Richard was feeling pretty spent with building work and so kept putting it off.

Hi (high) up there!
But the gift was the motivation that he needed, and so it has gotten done, and not only that,  he also rustled up this wonderful book case for me in secret one afternoon!

The uprights are made from trees that Richards father planted for the birth of his oldest son almost fifty years ago, that they cut down in 2002 (our kitchen celling is made from these also),  the shelving is left over wood that Richards parents recieved from his grandmother as a wedding gift more than fifty years ago!

Years ago on the eve of my best friend's wedding we took a walk out to Strumble Head Light House with her, the future groom, her parents and my dad, all very pleasant indeed until Richard spotted a seal, then another swimming just of the coast.  Wanting to share his discovery with us he shouted "phoque! phoque!" - which means seal in french but is unfortunately pronounced like a very naughty English swear word!!!  Given as I'm a french speaker I didn't bat an eye lid but the others, wondering why Richard had taken it upon himself to stand swearing like a trooper at the water, all stood glancing at each other, in much puzzlement!!!  How we did laugh afterwards, and the incident even made it into the groom's speech the next day.

On giving me the picture my father also reminded me that when he dies he wants to be cremated and his ashes thrown from the lighthouse!!