Monday, January 16, 2006

Home is where the Heart is - and if Homemade Bread's there too, that's nice!

I'm bad. There I go, leaving y'all with nothing - NOTHING! - for an entire week - again! But you see, it is not for of lack of "want", nor is it too much "must do" or need of perfection that 'causes me to not post so much at the moment. It's only because of - yet another - darn exam. And the other thing. Oh yes, the other thing is taking up quite an amount of my time as well. I'll get back to the other thing.

Anyways: don't you just love the smell of freshly baked bread? I know I do. For some reason, I've never been afraid of the whole yeast/too much cold/draft thing. I used recipes, I measured flour, water, yeast, salt - I kneaded, proved, knocked back, shaped, proved again - baked. Not thinking too much about it, just doing it. I used to bake around a hundred rolls every morning back when I ran a canteen, not giving it much thought.

But I don't think I ever really understood what it was all about, before I started baking all of the bread I eat at home myself. It was back when Martin and I lived in London, and there was no way of getting a decent loaf of bread unless you wanted to pay an arm and a leg for it. So, browsing the piles of cookbooks on sale in Selfridges I found Linda Collister's The Bread Book. And I think it's safe to say it was nothing short of a revelation to me.

I mean, before that I'd learned as much as: yeast is a kind of small cells that walks around in the dough, eating little bits of flour and farting, hence making everything rise (is that too cute an explanation or what??) and that you really shouldn't use liquid that was too warm, or too cold - but the whole thing about the dough being alive, or proving it in a hot versus a cold environment, or adjusting the amount of yeast - I had no idea. Linda's book was read from one end to the other. At first, I thought that proving a dough for 2 hours was just plain ridiculous - I was used to a maximum of half an hour - and, well, half a ton of yeast more than what Linda suggested. But I did as I was told. And I haven't looked back since.

Or, wait, that's a slight exaggeration. For a year or so, I baked a lot. Sour doughs, rye bread, rolls - you name it. And I still bake every now and again, but it's not like it used to be. Now, we rely heavily on Emmerys. They make wonderful bread, but the thing is - it doesn't come with the smell. Sure, if you poke your nose deep enough in the brown paper bag, you'll get an idea of it - but it really isn't the same.

So - I would promise myself to bake more bread this year. I would. It's not that hard, and I've become pretty confident about changing all sorts of recipes to fit my temper - some days I do have hours and hours to wait for something to prove, at other times it's just easier to scoot everything into the fridge and let it take care of itself in there, then get back to it the next day. I would do it.

I can even prove, that sometimes, I do do it. Sometimes home is where homemade bread is - especially if it's this kind of bread.

Grandma Bread or Mormorbrød - courtesy of Camilla Plum

This is a bread that's just a touch more special than a plain white because of the use of milk, butter and eggs. Not rich like a challah, but somewhere in between challah and plain white, I'd say.

30 g. fresh yeast (if you want to leave the dough in the fridge overnight to prove, use only 5-10 grams)
200 ml. tepid milk
1 egg
100 ml. melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
500 g. flour

Dissolve the yeast in the tepid milk. Add the egg, butter, sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve. Add 3/4 of the flour, kneading as you do so. Keep kneading for about 10 minutes - add the rest of the flour if necessary. Leave the dough to prove for a couple of hours (about 2 hours if you're on the full amount of yeast - you could confidently leave it in the fridge to rise for 6 hours, on the smaller amount of yeast)

Knock back the dough and shape into a loaf. I usually use a bread pan, but you could also bake it free form. Leave to rise for 1 hour (perhaps a bit longer if it's straight out of the fridge) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy the smell of freshly baked bread.

- And yet. I hope my home is not defined by where I bake my bread. Because it's not being done as much as it should, and well, it's not going to change for a while - not in this home, anyways. You see, getting back to "The Other Thing".

No, I'm NOT pregnant! No, no, this is something I have to do BEFORE I get pregnant - and I'm not planning on getting pregnant anytime soon, but really - should we just stop with all of the pregnancy talk now?? Okay. Good.

Martin and I have been - NO, we're NOT getting married either! C'mon. It's way more down to earth than that. Or actually, there'll be flying involved. And driving by car. Lots of driving. And no real home, no our home, for a while.

On March the 1st., or somewhere around that date anyways, Martin and I are going to pack our bags, empty our bank accounts, take our hearts (and not so much homemade bread) and fly to Miami, Florida, buy a car - and go on a roadtrip across USA. We've been talking about doing this since this summer, then came the move and school and all sorts of distracting stuff, but now - NOW - oh wait, now there's an exam, hovering above my head. Argh.

So I'm asking for your help here. I need help, hints, plans, ideas, suggestions - everything! I'm dying to plan more of what we're going to do, but "research" these days means shoving my head deeper into the medical books, NOT surfing the internet. We have at least a TON of questions, some of them in the "F-U-N" category, and some of them more related to insurances/buying cars etc. But I thought I'd start by asking you all the most basic of basic questions:

Where should we go?? Why should we go there? Should we come see you and maybe try your homemade bread;-)? Okay, okay, it doesn't have to involve you baking bread, but there's no doubt I'd love to meet as many of you as possible along our way!

Feel free to use the comment section or drop me an e-mail - I can't wait to hear your suggestions!


Andrea said...

Hi Zarah. I started to make hand-made bread too. Made two altogetherm, ciabatta and whole-grain bread. I love them toasted. Even though I have a bread maker, it is more fun to make them by hand. However, I used ready mix from the shops but still.. the aroma is fabulous, I agree.

Ivonne said...

Hi Zarah,

I love your blog and this bread looks delicious! You're right. Nothing smells as good as baking breat!

bea at La Tartine Gourmande said...

I am glad I stopped by.
I am having breakfast and realized I ran out of bread and needed to make a new loaf (and did not know which one to go for!) Perfect planning eh? You have a recipe for me! Merci

lucette said...

Will you be able to do some camping? I think that's an ideal way to drive across the US--about half camping and half motels or B&Bs. Much cheaper, but also a lot of campgrounds are in very beautiful places. I'm assuming that you're planning on the Grand Canyon?

Cathy said...

Hi Zarah - so the cat is finally out of the bag! But about bread first - Your loaf looks beautiful! Not too long ago I went for about two years without buying any bread. I don't eat that much bread (though I did eat more when I was making it :) ), so it didn't require baking bread more than once a month or so. I do love everything about home-baked bread and it's been way too long since I last made some!

Now about the trip. Well you know what I'm going to say... 1. here!, 2. NYC, then there are tons of places in-between and beyond (many of which I haven't even seen). I've been afraid to think about it too much, for fear of jinxing it, but I will put on my thinking cap and come up with my list of can't miss places in the US. I can't wait!

T said...

gorgeous crumb, Zarah!

PS. a trip to america? fabulous! go to san francisco! los angeles! new york city! its a bit of a wide expanse between the coasts, but beautiful nonetheless.

Luisa said...

Come to New York! You can't not come to New York on an American roadtrip. I'll make you bread to take on your travels! :) Depending on how long you stay, driving up I-95 to Boston and up to Maine is absolutely glorious: New England-y, ocean-y. Otherwise, driving up the California coastline is supposed to be eye-poppingly fantastic.

Zarah Maria said...

Hi Dreska! Ready-mix, hand-mixed, bread machine - if the scent is there, it all counts!;-)

Hi Ivonne! Thank you! Only thing smelling as good as baking bread - cinnamon rolls!! Yum!

Hi Bea! Thanks for stopping by! Let me now how it goes with the bread if you do give it a try!

Hi Lucette! We discussed camping and I think we ended up agreeing that none of us was really that into it, even though we realize it would save us some money - but Grand Canyon is something that we would definitely try building into our plans! I've been there once, back when I was 12, but I hardly remember it, and Martin really should see it!

Hi Cathy! And leaving it's fur all over the place it is, that cat! Re. the bread - I know exactly what you mean, for some reason I start thinking it's so hard and it takes so much time - when really all you have to do is dump stuff in the mixer (or spare 20 minutes for a bit of kneading - and you know I'd use any excuse for 20 minutes away from the books;-)) - then the rest almost takes care of itself!
Can't wait to see your list - and you KNOW I wouldn't come to America without coming to see you!! (and ditto on the jinx-feeling - why do you think it's taken me so long to tell everyone??:-))

Hi Tanvi! Oh we're so going to ALL of those places! And indeed the crumb on that bread is lovely - to look at AND to eat!

Hi Luisa! I would be an unwise woman if I didn't take you up on THAT offer;-)! New York is most certainly on the list - we've been going back and forth on whether Boston and Maine should be included, but we're both suckers for lobsters so I think not going to Maine would be just plain stupid! (We've heard they have gorgeous lobsters in Maine - that is true, right??) And something that's eye-poppingly fantastic - we're there!!

keiko said...

Hi Zarah - I've actually baking quite a lot of bread recently, that's one of my resolutions this year 'baking *better* bread'! Your bread looks absolutely gorgeous and perfect, isn't the smell just fantastic when baking in the oven?

That's wonderful that you travel around the States, I'm sure you'll have a great time. I'm already looking forward to hearing about your adventure! Take care.

christine said...

Hi! mmmmm - that bread looks good.
As for visiting the States, I'd put in my vote for Portland, Oregon. Wonderful town for foodies and great for sightseeing - hiking, biking, mountains nearby...

Julie said...

Zarah! I'm so glad to hear that your trip is on. Here's what I think -- if you're going to be down in Florida, you should go to New Orleans, despite the devastation. Even just for a night or two, go stay in the French Quarter, which wasn't as badly hit by the hurricane and is still unique and gorgeous.

Santa Fe and other parts of New Mexico -- San Francisco and Northern California, Sonoma, Napa -- and if you drive up the Pacific Coast highway from there, Portland,Oregon; Seattle and the Cascade Mountains in Washington State...then coming east, of course. New York -- I'll help you with places to stay here. And I have a great B&B for you in Maine if you decide to go there...

s'kat said...

Definately don't forget to put California wine country on your list!