Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas presents

Saturday, December 16, 2006
Our three closest neighbors are in competition for the best-neighbor-in-the-world contest, and they have cheered me on in this Year of the Yeast, so I wanted to give them a loaf of bread as a holiday present. I told them to look at my blog and see which one they wanted--no restrictions. I was a little surprised at their choices because I expected that they might opt for something fancier, but their choices were pumpernickel, caraway rye, and fresh herb focaccia. Fortunately, the caraway rye neighbors are in England this week, so I can make their bread next week; otherwise, I would have tried to bake three loaves in one day.
As it was, I baked two in one day--always a challenge for me because I lose my place in the cookbook, I don't remember which timer belongs to which bread, and I am just generally in a more confused state than usual. This day was no different than the others where I have attempted more than my mental acuity can handle; fortunately, all the ingredients went in the appropriate bread.

I attacked the pumpernickel first. It was such fun to finally be able to make a bread for the second time! And this time I had good pumpernickel flour from King Arthur (what makes their flour so good?) and the little bottle of caramel color, so this one turned out even better, I think, than my first one. The pumpernickel recipients were very grateful, and kept telling me what a nice present it was.
After the pumpernickel was rising, I started the focaccia. I had forgotten that this focaccia is made with the Play-Doh technique of kneading. I was totally absorbed in this process when Elizabeth, home for the holidays, walked in the kitchen and asked me what I was doing. She said it in a tone that indicated I would not have a good answer. I told her it was an advanced kneading technique for super-hydrated breads. This was apparently not a good answer because she just noted that I was making a huge mess. Aside from the messy kneading, this bread is very satisfying to make because of the rolling, folding, and dimpling techniques it uses, which are all, for some reason, very pleasing to me.
As I was working on the two breads, it occurred to me that I wasn't going to be able to enjoy either of them because I was giving them both away. I started to feel mildly aggrieved, but tried to convince myself that the joy of giving was better than the joy of eating. Well, OK, I said to an unconvinced self: the joy of giving is almost as good as the joy of eating.
However, when I called the focaccia recipients to tell them I would deliver their bread, they asked us to stay and help them eat it. I hesitated--joy of giving, Marie, joy of giving--and told them we'd be over in five minutes.

Laurel and Jan Deloria
They brought out a bottle of a lovely Italian wine from Puglia, two cheeses, apples, and olive oil. (I told you they were excellent neighbors). We did restrain ourselves from decimating the bread and left them some to eat with their dinner.
I've just finished reading Rose's blog, which has a new entry on the no-knead bread. This has made me want to try some more variations, which I plan to do next weekend--along with the caraway rye.

9 comments:

Chubbypanda said...

That's a great story. I love giving homemade presents of food to my friends and receiving them in turn. There's always something extra special about getting a gift that was made just for you.

- Chubbypanda

Anonymous said...

I think you sound like a lovely neighbor yourself.
Your entry is so funny this time. It is 0430 in the morning and I have to get off to work soon. Thanks for a good laugh to start the day.
Thanks for the tipperoos too regarding bagels. I think what intimidates me most is the boiling part...I have visions of a ball of wet dough falling to bits as I take it out of the water. But I will pluck up some Marie bravado and attack. Merry Christmas to you.
Cheers. Melinda

Alison said...

I just discovered your blog last night, it is wonderful. I bought RLB's Bread Bible about a year ago but sadly I haven't made more than 6 or so recipes. You have definitely given me inspiration.

breadbasketcase said...

Chubby Panda,
I was so inspired by baking presents that I decided to make some cinnamon rolls for my nephew--just like the ones his grandmother used to make. I asked my sister-in-law, his mother, if she had Grandma Rose's recipe, and told her what I was going to do. She said, "Oh, Marie, that's such a nice idea. You know, he never really liked those cinnamon rolls, but he always pretended he did." OK, never mind.

breadbasketcase said...

Melinda,
What time do you get up in order to get to work at 4:30 a.m.?
Boiling the bagels scared me too--it didn't seem possible that it would work...but it does. I think you're going to love them.

breadbasketcase said...

Alison,
I just looked at your blog too. I loved the entry where you were naming some of your favorite foods and said that you realized your entire list involved memories of the people you loved best.

Anonymous said...

I am a haemodialysis nurse. We work all God's hours.
I wish you were here to hold my hand for the first batch of bagels!!
I keep remembering that Jim liked them so much he asked you if they were too hard to make often. Bagels at our store bakery are horrible so I don't have much to compete against.
I am now officially off duty till after Christmas so I can start my proper baking now. Cheers, Melinda

Anonymous said...

Do they travel well? Send some to me!
Melinda

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