Sunday, November 2, 2008
Sarah and I have been back from Paris for a few weeks, but I haven't gotten around to blogging. For one thing, I saw all those beautiful women in Paris, none of whom seemed to have an extra ounce on her, and I got enthusiastic--briefly--about losing some of my own extra ounces, not to mention pounds. So no baking. Although, I have to say that none of those beautiful, thin French women seemed to be dieting.
That is not a beautiful French woman; it's my beautiful daughter, looking very French.
I had good intentions of taking pictures of food. But then I got so enraptured with eating it that I never wanted to bother taking pictures. And it did not escape my intention that no one else was taking pictures of their food. After I had already caused some raised eyebrows with my mangling of the French language, it seemed a little gauche to bring out the camera.
This is the best I can do--numerous wine glasses, and, if you look very carefully, you can see a basket of bread.
We had a fabulous time, and it was so much fun seeing the city with Sarah, who had never been there before, is very enthusiastic, and loves to eat good food and drink good wine, both of which we had in abundance. I was musing about how if something happened to Jim, maybe I would like to find a nice Frenchman who had a lovely apartment in Paris and who spoke good English.
"Um, but Mom," Sarah said, "aren't French men supposed to be sort of ... jerks?"
"Maybe as a rule," I said, "but not this one."
"Are you sure?"
"Sarah, do you know what he says to me?"
"He says, "'Marie, tu est parfait.'"
Well, she had to admit he sounded pretty good. I was getting a little irritated at Jim, who has never once told me I was parfait, or even perfect, but then I realized I had to cut him a little slack since I'd made up my French second husband out of whole cloth.
But after a while, the memory of all those svelte French women faded away, and I decided I would lose weight at some later time. Anyway, would eats more bread than the French? It's clearly not bread that is the culprit.
(I wasn't totally away from my oven last week--I baked a big pan of brownies and three dozen oatmeal raisin cookies for the volunteers at the Minneapolis Obama headquarters, but I forgot to take pictures. They were good, though). The King Arthur brownie recipe is excellent.
In fact, it was the King Arthur brownie recipe that led me to the bread I made this weekend. I had been trying to decide whether to bake a rye bread or a semolina bread, so when I saw the recipe for Chewy Semolina Rye Bread, I knew that was the Bread of the Week.
The bread calls for three flours: rye, semolina (I used durum--maybe the coarser semolina would have worked better here), and bread flour, along with a little sugar, olive oil, water, yeast, and vital wheat gluten. The only change I made was to substitute caraway seeds for dried onion flakes. (Because rye bread isn't rye bread without caraway seeds, in my opinion, and I have a food-snobbish objection to dried onion flakes).
This is a much easier bread to make than Rose's rye bread recipes or her recipes using durum wheat flour, but the extra steps in her recipes more than pay off. This bread was good--it's pretty hard to have a loaf of freshly baked bread that doesn't have something to recommend it--but it's definitely not a great bread.
All the ingredients are mixed together and kneaded briefly. (Rose's recipes generally call for longer kneading, less yeast, slower rising, and more periods of rest). It rises only once in the bowl, for only about an hour.
Then it's shaped, and it rises again for another hour or so. (Rose's breads usually have a total of three rises).
Then, after it's risen, you cover it quickly with an egg wash, slash it, and bake it.
After I made my first slash, I realized that the bread already was forming a natural slash lengthwise down the middle of the loaf, and that I should have just emphasized that. But it was too late for thinking.
It was nice to have a loaf of fresh bread again. But the delicate taste of durum flour, which is what I love about it, was totally overwhelmed by the rye flour and caraway seeds, which is, after all, what I love about rye bread. But, as it turned out, there seemed to be no particular advantage to mixing the two; I was hoping that the combination would somehow be synergistic, but no such luck. Even though I used my burst-of-steam gadget, this loaf was not a good crusty loaf of bread--its crust was more like that of a sandwich loaf than a peasant loaf. It was chewy and it tasted good, but it was not the spectacular bread I was hoping for.