Saturday, July 21, 2007
Pondering what bread to bake next, I looked in the cupboards with my bread-making equipment and noticed bread pans. Hmm, I said to myself, I haven't made a plain loaf of bread for many months. I also said to myself, I haven't used this whole wheat flour for a while. (In fact, when I looked at the flour, I saw that it's "best if used before" date was sometime last year. I know how Rose feels about old flour, but I decided to use it one more time before I threw it away).
I looked at a bunch of recipes, but nothing quite struck my fancy. The whole wheat breads all looked too dense and hearty, and I was in the mood for something lighter. I finally decided to use Rose's basic white bread recipe and just substitute half whole wheat flour; hence the half wheat. Or it could be half white, I guess. (No, not half wit).
This bread came out very well, especially for being rushed into shape. We had to leave at 5:00, so I wanted the bread to be ready by 3:00. I started mixing the sponge around 9:30, but when I read the recipe carefully, I realized that if I used all the maximum rising times, the bread would not come out of the oven until 6:00. So I used the minimum rising times, and shaved some more time off. It didn't seem to matter one bit. I probably wouldn't have needed to throw the elderly flour away after all.
But the real star of this bread was the butter. You may have seen the article in the NYTimes about making your own butter. I cut it out, but didn't really intend to try it. I mean, how Little House on the Prairie is making your own butter? If you start that, soon you'll be weaving your own yarn, or putting a henhouse in your garage. But the lure of home-churned butter is too great to resist.
Well, off course, it's not home-churned. It's home KitchenAided with the whisk attachment. I have always loved to whip cream. It was my job as a child whenever we had dessert with whipped cream, which was never often enough. But my mother always cautioned me not to beat it for too long "or it will turn into butter." So I grew up with this idea that one millisecond too long, and your nice whipped cream would turn into a big chunk of butter. If my mother were still alive, I'd tell her not to worry: there is a long, long period of time before the whipped cream becomes butter. But that's all there is to it. Whip it long enough (like ten minutes) and suddenly, immediately after attaining a curdish consistency, it starts sploshing liquid onto the plastic wrap that the directions have helpfully told you to cover the bowl with, it does what it's supposed to do. The thick stuff is butter. The milky stuff is--you'll never guess--buttermilk.
I like my butter unsalted, but Jim doesn't, so, like the good wife that I am, I sprinkled a little sea salt into most of the butter.
If I had had more time, I might have shaped the butter into something cute. As it was, we barely had time to cut into the still warm bread, slather it with incredibly fresh and delicious butter, and eat three pieces each.
Then we had to leave to go to a party. It's a hard life, but someone has to do it.