Adventures in bread making

A nursery rhyme from childhood played in my head yesterday. An obscure little ditty, but well suited to humming while baking bread!

“Blow wind, blow
And go, mill, go
That the miller may grind his corn
That the baker may take it
And into bread make it
And bring us a loaf in the morn.”

The history of bread, by John Ashton, ca 1900

I’ve always wanted to make bread from scratch.

I know, I know… big deal, she made some bread! Yawn… Give her a medal already.

Get a grip Karen, it’s just baking bread, it’s not Breaking Bad. 😉

It’s not like I discovered the Northwest Passage or the Philosophers Stone, and here I am penning a piece on an activity people do all the time, and have done for thousands of years.

Yet, I avoided this my whole life because the act of baking bread held some weird inexplicable romantic quality for me.

It seemed like a mystical process of alchemy only some ancient sage could have practiced, (which it may very well have been to an ancient person), especially that chemical reaction between yeast & water. If you think about it, how did they even come up with that idea so long ago? Amazing, really.

In any case, now that I’ve partaken in this magical process, I realize my fear of the ‘unknown’ was totally unfounded. Isn’t that the way with most things in life?! But I digress…

After what I feel was a successful bread making endeavour, I’m keen to bake just about anything now! Especially after (re)discovering family cook books/recipes from my Mom, and my Great great Grandma’s from the mid eighteenth century. (Thank goodness for Google. It didn’t take long to locate how old weights and measures from old cook books translate into measurements we use today.)

But seriously, aren’t these small, yet lovely personal triumphs in life worth celebrating?

The point is, if I can make bread from scratch, anyone can! If you’re interested in having a go, read on!

The recipe comes down from my Grandma. (She also made the best lemon meringue pie ever, but that’s another post). This bucolic loaf contains just a handful of ingredients, including rosemary and garlic. (Of note, I didn’t weigh the flour like one probably should. Instead, I used a little less than this recipe calls for.)

Nell’s Rosemary & Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups of water (temperature of that water should be between 105F – 110F to interact with yeast. (I ran water from the tap over the thermometer to get the correct temp.)
  • 1 packet (1/4 ounce) of dry instant yeast
  • 4.5 cups of unbleached flour (I used 4.25 cups)
  • 1 tbsp pickling salt (I like it because it’s coarse)
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp dried & crushed rosemary
  • Olive oil for bowl

Directions

*** Before you begin, take off those rings! They’ll get all sticky with dough. This saves cleaning them. 🙂

1 – Open packet of yeast and empty it into a good size bowl.

2 – Stir in the warm water, which activates the yeast. Stir for a couple minutes. It will start to thicken.

3 – Add the flour and mix it up with your hands. (This is one of the best parts, being at one with the dough! I’d have more photos if my hands weren’t covered in it)

4 – Next, add the salt, rosemary, and garlic. Mix it in well.

5 – There should be a good sticky ball of dough now, so transfer it on to a flour dusted surface to knead, which should be done for about 5 minutes.

6 – Work it into a ball shape by molding it with your hands, and it’s ready for its first rise.

7 – I put a little olive oil in the bowl. Not much, but enough to keep the dough from sticking while it’s rising, so you can get it out easily. Put the dough in the bowl and roll it around, gently, so the olive oil is evenly distributed.

8 – Place a towel over the bowl and leave it for one hour to rise. The dough should expand to twice its original size.

9 – Once that’s done, push your fist gently into the dough while it’s still in the bowl to let out the gas that forms inside.

10 – Dust your surface again and knead the dough for 2 minutes. Add flour as needed.

11 – Put the dough back in the bowl with the tea towel over it and let it sit for another hour.

12 – About 45 minutes into that hour, preheat an electric oven to 425F, or like me with a gas stove, to  450F. It should be good and hot when you put the dough inside.

13 – I used my big 4 quart cast iron cooking pan to bake the bread, and it’s pretty wide, so you could use a smaller one. Lightly oil the pan, (like with the bowl above) and dust it with flour, and some more garlic & rosemary, if you have any left over.

14 – Once that second rising is done, score it across the top with a knife. Not too deep, but enough that there’s some nice texture to it once it’s fully cooked.

15 – Gently place that now larger ball of dough in your pot. Dust the top with a bit more flour, (and rosemary/garlic) and place in oven.

16 – Bake it for about 35 minutes. Take it out, and check it to see if it’s done by piercing it with a kebab stick. If it comes out clean and not smeary, you’ve just successfully baked a loaf of bread. Well done!

17 – I put my loaf on our big cutting board to cool, but a wire rack works too. Don’t cover the bread while it cools or moisture will form on the bread, which is kind of yucky!

Cut the bread and eat it while it’s warm. Yum… Enjoy!

Baking Cream Scones. Sharing a #recipe that takes me back in time

Cream Scones with recipe

Over the last few years, I’ve surprised myself with just how much more interested I am in the act of creating food. Sure, I grow herbs and veggies in my garden, and can cook chicken, beef dishes, heat up vegetables, and bake muffins or a cake out of a box, but something was lacking.

Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s because fast food is so accessible, and the fact that we live an ‘I want it now’ culture. In any case, I’ve found my food experiences inadequate of late.

What I’ve always cooked is edible and tastes fine, but upon reflection, shouldn’t the food we eat fully engage our senses? Shouldn’t there be less indifference and more attention given to what we put on the plate? Maybe we need to locate that enthusiasm again and fully participate in the act of creating food. These are the things I’ve been considering lately, along with this latent desire to mindfully enjoy each and every bite! And, does it take reaching middle age to find all of this out?!

Sometimes I think about my mom and how she valiantly tried to teach me how to cook. When I was younger, I just wanted to be outside, in the garden or in the pool, and as an admitted introvert, I preferred hanging out in my room listening to music or reading books. I was happy to eat what mom made, but not so big on the creating part! It seemed like a chore.

Fast forward to my thirties when my Mom died. Not only did I grieve for her, but as it turned out, for her cooking. That sounds outrageously selfish, and I do miss her, but I also miss her perfect Yorkshire pudding, scrumptious scalloped potatoes, oozing butter tarts full of plump raisins. I could go on. Really, I took her cooking and what she served us for granted. Maybe I thought I could learn by osmosis, and maybe that’s not far off because I have learned along the way how some of the things she taught or told me actually stuck.

So, not only do I miss my her presence, but I miss the smell of the kitchen when the aroma of the food wafted through the house. My dad and I were talking about her one day, and I brought this up. He felt the same way of course, and happily he’d kept all of her handwritten recipes and cookbooks.

He gave them to me, (probably thinking it was a futile effort, lol), several years ago, but in the interim, I discovered three more reasons to up the ante on my kitchen skills.

One is Pinterest.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve noted how often I’m on that website when it’s getting close to dinner time and I’m hungry! All of those scrumptious recipes to save on my recipe pin board… It’s such a great place to find many a tantalizing food image, along with a link to the recipe. When I saw the breadth of choice out there, it was an epiphany. I’ve been persuaded to try cooking something new.

The second thing would be cooking shows, (and food blogs, too), but especially cooking shows, each hosted by many different personalities, because that host sets the flavour of the show, (pardon the pun), just like the food recipes they’re creating.

There’s a show about food for everyone. No wonder there’s a Food Network! Having said that, it was likely Anthony Bourdain’s show who first engaged my attention on CNN. I loved how he traveled the world, diving into different cultures and sharing their love of food. I still enjoy seeing the old Julia Child shows on PBS too, or Lidia’s Kitchen on the Telelatino channel. In their own way, each chef is so entertaining. Plus, you learn something new, and you get to eat!

The third is probably the most important reason. Along with my mom’s cook books, I now have in my possession the ones that belonged to my great-great grandmother. These books hail from the mid 1800’s into the early part of the 20th century.

This all hearkens back to my mom. Cooking or baking from a recipe passed down from our ancestors and people we love, but who are now lost to us, is a special way to visit them once in a while.

Back to the present. Today I baked my mom’s cream scones from her recipe. Talk about comfort food on a cold winter day!

Not only did they turn out really well, but boy, did I ever enjoy eating them again after so many years!

While they baked, I closed my eyes. The smell from my own oven took me right back to mom’s kitchen. It was truly wonderful, and the best part is that these scones are delicious, and so easy to make!

I’d like to share that recipe here.

Noreen’s Cream Scones

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (I used unbleached)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup table cream (18%)

Mix dry ingredients, add butter, stir in cream, and knead

Roll into a pie shape, (on floured surface)

Bake on non-stick pan

10-12 minutes at 450 degrees

Enjoy! ~ Karen

If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake! – Here’s a recipe instead!

The title of this post refers to a tune my Mother-in-law used to sing to my son.

In this case, I was actually going somewhere. I baked this cake to take and share at our family Christmas dinner.

-> But, I forgot to take it!

After kicking myself over this memory lapse, we ate it when we got home. (Which wasn’t such a bad thing, either.)

I took a couple photos before we ate it, but do wish I’d taken photos during the baking process. Next time for sure…

In any case, I’d like to share the recipe. It’s somewhat based on a recipe of my Mother’s that I found in an old cookbook of hers from 1959, called ‘Nellie Lyle Pattinson’s Canadian Cook Book’, by the Ryerson Press.

The recipe is called ‘Orange Cake’, but I put my own twist on the recipe and turned it into a ‘Lemon Cardamom Cake’.

With no oranges at home, I subbed it with lemons instead, and added cardamom too, which blends perfectly with citrus.

Without further ado, here you go!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 & 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 3 cups pastry flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed if you can!)
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground cardamom pods
  1. Preheat oven to 350, grease a 9″ round pan. (You’ll likely have more batter than you need, so make some cupcakes, too. I used an pie pan to create a more decorative edge, purchased on Etsy.)
  2.  Cream shortening thoroughly until light and fluffy – add vanilla extract & grated lemon
  3. Add sugar gradually, mixing well after each addition
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, mix in milk. Beat until mixture is smooth
  5. Sift flour, measure, mix.
  6. Sift baking powder, salt, and cardamom
  7. Add all dry ingredients, & mix until smooth
  8. Pour batter into prepared pans
  9. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes (up to 45 for square pan) Stick a toothpick in. If it’s clean, the cake is ready
  10. Let cool on rack

In addition to that, I slathered on some store bought whip cream, then added some blueberries and raspberries. It gave it a nice colour! Then some confectioner’s sugar sifted on top. Yum!

If you decide to make it, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Happy baking! ~ Karen