Although I have not committed myself to the French Skinny exercise plan, I have made the commitment to only eat fresh foods. No more processed food for this family! It has been wonderful. I have not lost any weight, but I haven't gained any either. I just can't bring myself to walk 5 miles and do 40-60 flights of stairs. (Karen, I applaud your determination! Although secretly I think you're CRAZY...maybe that's why I like you so much!)
Anyhow, that first week at the grocery store, as I idled down the aisles and read the back of boxes and jars; I was APPALLED! I kept hearing Jamie Oliver on t.v. say, "if it reads like a science experiment, don't eat it." Or something like that. I was screwed...there is NOTHING on the shelves that is fit for consumption. What have I been feeding my kids? Even the bread had preservatives. And that was when it hit me...I would make my own fresh bread!
Now mind you, I don't cook. Or at least I cook, but very few things and moderately well. I fancied myself a baker...and then I tried to make bread. After about 4 loaves of wheat bread, I was covered in flour, in a kitchen that looked like a tornado had ripped through it. As for my bread...it was hard as a rock! Betty Crocker I was not.
Pitching in the towel, I poured a glass of wine and whined on Facebook that my bread could be used as a weapon. A friend of mine immediately responded and said she knew exactly what I was doing wrong. I called her and we made plans to have a bread making (wine drinking) lesson. So after 4 or 5 months of schedule conflicts, we finally had a date! And I had a plan...I was going to make baguettes...just like the baguettes that Karen was always eating on The French Skinny Experiment. So this is for you Karen...my inspiration (in bread making and blogging)!
Bread Making/Wine Drinking Day
The Hostess: Meg
Meet Meg. Meg was gracious and crazy enough to let us into her home for a day of bread making and wine drinking. Meg is wonderfully eccentric. She lives on a few acres on a mountain where she rescues animals. My children think she's like a children's show...they love her. At Meg's; if you're not getting dirty, you're not having fun!
My Teacher/Guru: Diana
Meet Diana. Diana is my super smart friend. Diana can do anything. Not only is she super smart, she also super sweet! And witty. And funny. And she can bake like nobody's business. Which is why I've enlisted her help.
We arrived at Meg's around 11:30 am. We walked in to the kitchen (poured a glass of wine) and got right to work. There was no time to delay...apparently baguettes take FOREVER. Leave it to me to pick something difficult.
The yeast needs to be warmed with water...it sits and bubbles...and starts working its magic.
After we got the baguette dough ready for it's first rising session, we took a break for some lunch and wine. Lunch consisted of left over tamale pie that Meg's husband Papi had made. It was DELICIOUS. Papi is also a magnificent cook!
Chef Extraordinare: Papi
After lunch it was back to the kitchen for some more kneading of the baguette dough and the start of the wheat bread.
This is where I was like, "Is it supposed to look like this??" Apparently it's like a science project. The yeast is working when I looks like this. We waited a little bit, then added more flower and honey.
I was ready to let Papi knead the dough this time...kneading dough is a lot of work! I need to go to the gym.
As he kneaded the dough, he added sunflower seeds and rolled oats. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Our baguette dough is rising...even the top of the saran wrap is bubbled up.
Time to deflate, knead some more and recover. Baguettes are a lot of work.
The wheat bread has REALLY risen!
Time to deflate it again!
Bread pans are ready. Time to divide up the loaves.
The wheat loaves have to rise some more.
Our baguette dough is ready!
It's kind of sticky...
Cut it up...
into four loaves.
This involved folding ends over and pinching seems.
Then rolling into little loaves.
Then cover and let rest. AGAIN.
The wheat bread is DONE! It smelled wonderful!
Poured a little melted butter over the top. My mouth was watering at this point.
Our friend Deb came over to visit and be our guinea pig.
And the verdict is...
a thumbs up!! After sampling the bread, we decided to take a break and visit the animals.
This is Benny...
and Elaine (Laney)...
Benny again...he wanted a carrot too.
Stanley the tortoise.
I think Kramer is smiling.
Lenny, Benny's brother is invading the chicken coop. And it is time for us to get back inside and check on the baguette loaves.
Time to score the tops of the loaves and into the oven they go. We didn't have a baguette pan. To improvise we turned a cookie sheet upside down, placed parchment paper with corn meal on it on top and placed the loaves on it. We then placed a pan of water beneath the cookie sheets to create steam. Apparently this is what gives the baguette its crunchy crust. We also didn't have a spray bottle to spray the sides of the oven with. We just splashed it on the sides with our fingers. We're hard core. Or rather, Diana is...she braved the heated oven.
Are these beautiful or what!?!
I'm so proud.
Time for a taste test...
After the bread making was done, Papi began making us a pasta dinner to go with our bread and wine.
Great food, great wine and great friends...it doesn't get better than this!
Dessert was yummy ice cream. After dessert we headed out to the patio. We laughed and talked while listening to music long into the evening. Eight bottles of wine later...we were staying the night!
In the morning Meg made us breakfast with her fresh "Meg's Eggs". We also had warm cinnamon bread that Diana had made the day before and brought with her.
Mmmmmmmm...this is how you start a Sunday morning.
Recipe off of Food Network, courtesy of Amy Scherber
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
3 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour (see note)
2 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon cool water (75 degrees F)
Combine the yeast and the warm water in a small bowl and stir with a fork to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for 3 minutes. Combine the flours and salt in a large bowl. Pour the cool water and the yeast mixture over the flour, and mix with your fingers to form a shaggy mass. Move the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 4 minutes. It should be supple and resilient, but not too smooth at this point. Let the dough rest on the work surface for 20 minutes, covered with plastic wrap or a light towel. (This rest period is the autolyse.)
Knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes. Don't overknead it: The dough should be smooth, stretchy, and resilient. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn it in the bowl to coat with oil, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature ( 75 to 77 degrees F) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until nearly doubled in volume.
Gently deflate the dough and fold it over itself in the bowl. Reshape it into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 1 1/4 hours or until it has nearly doubled again. Gently deflate the dough again, reshape into a round, cover, and let rise for about 1 hour. Place the dough on a very lightly floured surface and divide it into 3 equal pieces (about 10 ounces each). Gently stretch one piece into a rectangle, leaving some large bubbles in the dough. Fold the top third down and the bottom third up as if you were folding a business letter. Now form the loaf into a log by rolling the dough over from left to right and sealing the seam with the heel of your palm. Fold the dough over about 1/ 3 of the way each time, seal the length of the loaf, then repeat. You want to gently draw the skin tight over the surface of the baguette while leaving some air bubbles in the dough. Seal the seam, being careful not to tear the skin of the dough or deflate its airy structure. Set aside on the work surface to relax before elongating it, and repeat the shaping process with remaining pieces of dough.
Now elongate each baguette, starting with the first one you shaped, by rolling it back and forth on the work surface. Begin with both hands over the center of the loaf and work them out to the ends until the loaf reaches the desired length. (Don't get carried away, or the baguettes won't fit in your oven!) Place the finished loaves on apeel or upside down baking sheet lined with parchment paper and generously sprinkled with corn meal or on a baguette pan. Cover the loaves with well oiled plastic or a floured cloth and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes until the loaves are slightly plump but still not doubled in volume. The final rise is short, because you want the baguettes to be slightly under proofed; this will give them a better oven spring, resulting in loaves with a light, airy crumb and more flared cuts.
Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Place a baking stone in the oven to preheat, and place an empty water pan directly under the stone. Use a very sharp razor blade or lame to make 3 to 5 slashes, depending on the length of your loaves, on the top of each baguette. The cuts should run from one end of the loaf to the other, rather than across it, and the blade should be held at a 30 degree angle to the loaf so that the cuts pop open in the oven. Be careful not to press down too hard, or you may deflate the loaves. Using a plant sprayer, mist the loaves.
Gently slide the loaves onto the preheated stone, or place the baguette mold in the oven. Pour 1 cup of very hot water into the water pan and quickly close the oven door. After 1 minute, mist the loaves and oven walls 6 to 8 times and close the door. After 2 more minutes, spray the loaves and the oven walls again.
Bake for 12 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes longer until the loaves are golden brown and crisp. Move them to a rack to cool.
Note: If cake flour is not available, you can use the same amount of unbleached allpurpose flour, but cake flour will give the baguette a lighter texture.
Simple Whole Wheat Bread
Recipe off of allrecipes.com, courtesy of Nita Crabb