Saturday, July 5, 2008

garden update and homebaked experiments

my garden is really kicking ass. i am so pumped!

huge ass tomato - it's like up to my waist!

baby eight ball zucchini

baby summer squash

i took these photographs while waiting for my bread dough to rise. i've never made real homemade bread before but i was feelin' like getting crazy on a tuesday night so i went for it. oh, and i also just picked up a sweet new cookbook about breads for only $6. the book is by margaux sky and apparently oprah loves her. now i love her.

so i've never bought yeast before and i've only ever noticed it in the cold section near the eggs. turns out that is compressed cake yeast which is hard to measure and confusing. use dry active yeast. it's in the baking section.

her recipe yields four loaves. i thought that was a bit excessive for my first time so i cut it in half. you dissolve the yeast in a large bowl with milk and half-and-half. then you add some melted butter and a lil' powdered sugar. in another large bowl mix together the flour and salt. slowly add the west stuff - like this:

then you mix with your hands. your hands will look this this:

now, even though the recipe clearly states, "keep the dough moist for a soft, tender bread" i thought it was too sticky. so i added more flour which in the end turned out to be much too much. (note - sticky wet dough is good).
i tried my hand at kneading:

after i kneaded for the suggested 7 minutes i put the dough in a buttered bowl, covered it with a towel, and let it rise for 60 minutes. while it was rising i took photos of my garden, drank a beer or two and read some roald dahl . (check out his adult short stories - twisted and sick and awesome). i also started some coals going in my grill for dinner.

after 60 minutes it had risen a little bit. it was not as buttery and big as i remember my mom baking (perhaps due to my flour overload) but i punched it down anyways and divided it in two and put it in some bread pans. it needed to rise to another 45 minutes and my coals were good to go so i started dinner.

remember i said my herbs would make an appearance?
rosemary, thyme and chives. the shallot is from the market.

i had some chicken and and a half of a gigantic potato. i also had a lil' leftover yard sale blow out bbq sauce. just enough in fact for the one piece of chicken (a leg/thigh combo) that i had left. i quartered the potato and tossed them with a little olive oil, some rosemary and salt and pepper and the minced shallot. i folded all that up in the heavy duty, grill worthy non-stick aluminum foil (one of the few things i don't skimp on - cheapo foil sucks) and
tossed it on the grill.

back inside i lifted the skin up off the chicken and stuffed a few sprigs of thyme underneath. after the potatoes had been cooking for about 20 minutes or so i threw the chicken on the grill. oh, and before that i stuck the bread in a pre-heated 400 degree oven.

i took this photograph from my chair behind the grilling while sipping beers, enjoying a nice breeze and really lovin' some roald dahl. seriously - check him out. if he sounds familiar it's because he wrote some kick ass children's stories that everyone knows - "james and the giant peach," and
"charlie and the chocolate factory" for example.

just when the chicken was almost done i started saucing and flipping. i sauced and flipped for about 7 more minutes. to finish up i added the fresh chopped chives to my potatoes.

i paired this meal with a blue moon because i had some in my fridge that a friend left. free! woohoo!

no need to show you a photo of the finished bread. it looked nice. real nice. just like homemade bread should look. however, it tasted like bad pound cake. much to much flour. i redeemed myself though. thursday night i tried my hand at margaux's recipe for english muffins. i bought dry active yeast and started kneading the dough while it was nice and sticky and wet. after the required rising time i spread out the dough with my hands and used a jar to make cut outs. after more rising i cooked them in a skillet for about 5-7 minutes per side.

those babies were delicious! thomas's better watch out! friday morning (pre-4th of july flea market outing) i made breakfast sammiches with them for my peeps. i toasted the muffins and loaded 'em up with a slightly hard dippy egg, sausage and cheese. YUM!

my new goal this summer - make (and possibly perfect) classic old school food stuffs. baking bread is my first real challenge and i've got a ways to go. sometime this summer i'd also really like to try some fresh cherry pie with white cherries. i am currently on the look out for one of those old cast iron cherry pitters. this summer i plan on kickin' it like it's 1908 instead of 2008. stay tuned if you like the old school.


Viper said...

I still don't think it's right that you made English muffins for Independence Day. They were good though. I was glad to be among your peeps that day.

the erratic epicurean said...

i think it is a testament to the resilience of this nation that even after a bloody war fought to gain independence we can still enjoy a nice tasty english muffin - the breakfast of our former oppressors. USA! USA! USA!

Xenia said...

I have garden envy now.

I've read Roald Dahl's Switch Bitch. I recommend it (if it's not the one you are currently reading of course).