Monday, April 7, 2008

To blog or not to blog...

OMG, I can't believe my last post was exactly 3 months ago! What happened in between, as most of you know, is that hubby and I found it we're getting a family in September :D
To refer back to the title of the post, I must say that in the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy the question was rather "to eat or not to eat" :S, hence my absence in the blogging world. I don't think anyone would have been interested in my daily menus, which consisted of bread and butter, rolls and butter and (surprise!) bread and butter :) Everything else made me bloated or gave me severe heartburns and discomfort.
Although everyone comforted me with the assumption that all this would be history after week 12, I must say it isn't, although it has certainly improved a lot and I can aim towards a more balanced diet, even if it's not too perfect yet.
Losing an interest in eating coupled with losing an interest in cooking and even baking, and I have still not regained my food-obsession (not that it's bad news that cravings and obsessive eating have evaded me), though I am slowly venturing back in the kitchen to cook quick meals.
I'm still not sure when I can (or if I will) start blogging again, time will tell...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bread, beautiful bread

First of all, Happy New Year to all!

New year, new beginnings, they say. And while I didn't make any New Year's resolutions, which I would inevitably fail anyway, I just decided to change a thing or two in my eating habits. Nothing drastical, nothing unmanagable, just things like taking up bread baking again. On a regular basis, because I love baking bread but I have neglected it for a long time. But the appalling state of affairs at the bread front in this country has simply made it inevitable to look for ways which produce bread. BREAD, with capital letters, as the "things" they sell at supermarket cannot be called so with the greatest good intention. And my town is too little to have a quality bakery, I'm afraid.

I tried tons of recipes for bread in the last few years. Recipes for bread machine, recipes for bread baked in the oven, several of which turned out fine. Fine, but not perfect. And ever since I tasted a gorgeous sour dough baguette on Portobello Road, I've been craving that taste.

So a few weeks ago I decided to give another go to the oh-so-famous no-knead bread. I must admit, I did try this recipe when it hit foodie internet circles but it didn't convince me, it turned out too chewy and wet for my taste. It was so long ago that I don't even remember what could have gone wrong there but I was hoping for a better result this time. And that I got. Perfect loaf of bread, nice crust and all those lovely holes inside, mmmmm! I could eat a whole loaf at a sitting, with only butter.

So here's my adapted recipe:

No-knead bread

450g bread flour

about 350ml water

a pinch of fresh yeast

1 tsp salt

Mix everything with a wooden spoon so that you get a sticky dough. You might need less or more water so go carefully. Cover with foil and let it rest for at least 12 hours. I usually rest it for 14-15 hours.

Fold the half of the dough over the other half and transfer to a heavily floured workspace. Let it rest for half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 240C (or 220C fan) and put in a round or oval Pyrex dish with lid to preheat.

Carefully transfer the dough in the dish, sprinkle with some flour, cover, and bake in the lowest position in your oven for about 35 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 25-30 minutes.

I have also tried replacing 100g bread flour with Graham flour and the loaf turned out just as beautiful, in fact higher than the previous one. No pic though, sorry.
For a change, I also made some health rolls this week, which have a different texture but are altogether very good.

Health rolls

200g bread flour
100g pastry flour
200g whole wheat, Graham or rye flour
4 tbsp rolled oats
125g yoghurt
about 300ml water
2 tsp butter
2 tsps of each: cumin seeds, sesam seeds, flax seeds and sunflower seeds
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar or honey
16g fresh yeast

Put everything in a bowl and knead by hand or KA. You need to get a soft, but not sticky dough.

Let the dough rest for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Knead again quickly and divide into 10 portions and shape rolls, putting them on a big baking tray. You can cut an x with a knife on top. Brush the rolls with water and sprinkle over some seeds or rolled oats if you want.

Let the rolls rest for about 20-30 minutes, and in the meantime preheat the oven and put a small bowl of water on the bottom. Then put the tray in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the rolls are nice golden. You can brush them with water again at half-time.