Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Baking

The pace of life never seems to quite slow down. If anything, it is only steadily speeding up. We returned from our weeks-long vacation to Oregon back in July, but I still don't feel like things are back to "normal." What is "normal," anyway? Does such a state even exist? Perhaps this is the new normal, and I just need to accept it.

I've known for a while that I really need to do something to take back the control of our increasingly hectic family life. For me, a big part of it centers around feeding my family. When things are too crazy and there is no plan, we end up eating out more or purchasing more convenience-type foods at the store, which results in spending more money than we need to (or should), not feeling our physical best, and getting into the general rut of unhealthy habits, from which it can be hard to break free. And my jeans are getting tight, which is not how I want to start the holiday season.

Beth, I know your schedule has only gotten more full lately, too. I've recently discovered a couple of websites I'd like to share that lately have provided me with some inspiration to eat well again, while still accommodating the reality of life.

The first is actually an article from Mother Earth News on how to make the best ever artisan bread at home. It is, quite literally, Five Minutes a Day for Fresh-Baked Bread (it is a long article worth the read, but the directions for the master recipe begin on page three). Beth, the technique is similar to the one outlined in the New York Times article on No Knead Bread that you mentioned in your post a while back on No-Knead Sourdough Bread, but without the added complication of using a heavy pot with a lid to bake it (I mean, really... you don't need a lidded pot to bake artisan bread). And the sheer beauty of this recipe is that you mix up enough dough for at least three loaves of bread, and then store it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks (!) while using only as much dough as you want, whenever you want to bake it. A time-saving genius! The article also gives proportions for mixing up a larger batch of dough, should you feel it is necessary to do so. The first time I made this bread, everyone at the table swooned and declared the the Best. Bread. Ever. Which is really saying something, since I've baked a lot of good bread. I don't think I'll ever need (or want) to use another recipe.

The other website is Linda Watson's Cook for Good. The thing that intrigues me about this site is the premise - and proof - that it really is possible to eat healthily, consciously, and conveniently, without spending a fortune at hoity-toity grocery stores, like the one that rhymes with "Mole Dudes" (also often referred to as "Whole Paycheck"). There are lots of good ideas here, and Linda also has several ebooks for sale if you are looking for more specific guidance with even more recipes and meal plans.

Sunday is my day off, which is when I am mostly (but not always!) inspired to do the things I enjoy most, like creating extraordinary meals out of ordinary ingredients. Today I baked an apple-cranberry pie using Linda's Sneaky-Wheat Butter Pie Crust. I also baked a loaf of fresh bread, which we will enjoy with tonight's dinner of salad and crusty bean cakes with garlic and herbs. And, of course, a modest slice of pie for dessert.

Do try the bread soon; I can't wait to hear what you think!


Elissa said...

How funny! I made this recipe this weekend as well, but I let the dough rest overnight and also added about 2 tsp of white vinegar to give it a sour kick. It was great, and no, I didn't cover it with a lid.

Julie said...

Elissa, isn't it great?!? I could eat an entire loaf all by myself. The white vinegar is something I wouldn't have thought of - thanks for the tip! You are so right: the dough is best (and much, much easier to work with) if it rests at least overnight - I always mix mine up at least one day before I want to bake it - but the flavor also improves with age, developing a mild sourdough-ish taste all on it's own. Also, page 5 of the MEN article offers this awesome tip:
"Lazy sourdough shortcut. When your dough container is empty, don’t wash it! Just scrape it down and incorporate it into the next batch. In addition to saving cleanup, the aged dough stuck to the sides will give your new batch a head start on sourdough flavor."


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