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Indivisible: Kitchen Fail Edition


This was meant to be my inspiring Easter recipe post. That, as it turns out, just wasn’t to be.

My idea was this: I would raid the used book store for old cookbooks and unearth lovely recipes for quaint and classy baked goods from their disintegrating pages. And so it was that I began work on a Finnish Coffee Bread–perfect for your Christmas, er, Easter table!

I knew disaster was lurking, even before I started. I didn’t want to deal with a “ten-plus cups of flour” dough volume. Did that stop me? Yes! Until I tried to do the math and the division by three became increasingly ridiculous. I got to the “4 eggs” and, since I had never made this bread before and I didn’t know what I should be looking for if I went by touch, I put the calculator down, crossed myself, and proceeded full steam ahead with a full batch.

All my liquids and spices and 5 cups of flour in, it was so far so good, until…

Well, no picture due to me lunging across the counter for the off switch while shouting “Oh, for Chirst’s sake!” (I know, not exactly, um, honoring the season) as the dough climbed up and over the dough hook and into (that’s right, into) the stand mixer arm.

So what we had here was another edition of “Wonderland Kitchen: Scrubbing eggy dough out of my stand mixer so you don’t have to!” Once I turned the dough out onto a well floured counter and worked the rest in that way, I was sailing along just like a scullery maid, visions of Downton Abbey fueling my little fists of furry.

The dough doubled, it was braided, and the oven was pre-heated. The loaves were slow risers on the second round, but I was getting impatient, tired, and cranky, so I jumped the gun a bit and wrestled all three into the oven. The appliance temperature plummeted and I couldn’t get it back up fast enough. Lessons were learned the hard way.

In the end, the bread was not as soft and airy as I would have liked and the braid was torn asunder from the eventual but delayed oven spring. It’s not terrible, but it’s not something anyone would want to showcase at an Easter feast this weekend, as initially intended.

Not all that tasty; not all that attractive, either. Plus, it's kinda burnt on the bottom.

I do have three loaves of it in the freezer now, however. Hmmm, a bread pudding just may be in order!

To be continued…

Three Cubed: Better Than Cake


The Book: Flavors of Hungary : Recipes and Memoirs by Charlotte Biro (1973)

As can be said for most April days here in Baltimore, it was dark, grey, and raining. Unwilling to leave my cozy kitchen for any purpose or ingredient not already pantry-side, I cracked open another cookbook in my stash that I had yet to actually use: Flavors of Hungry. The book, once part of a larger grandmotherly collection, had been passed on to me by a friend. She suspected that, going on as I do about my Hungarian roots and how my own grandmother never measured anything the same way twice, I might put it to good use.

Page 127 was an illustration, but page 128 was a recipe for what looked like a basic bread but contained both riced potatoes and cake flour. Rye flour was a suggested alternative to the potatoes so, having the latter but not the former, appropriate substitutions commenced.

As it turns out, the Hungarian aversion to measuring that my grandmother professed must be a universal. Water was to be added “as needed” and just how much potato was required (or how much rye flour was to be added, if that was the swap) was left to the cook’s own judgement. Assuming a certain skill level, the instructions only go so far: for example, you are to work the dough “until the texture is right” and you’re on your own as far as figuring out what that might be. This was probably more than obvious to most women in 1973, but it made me reflect on the requirements of recipes today.

Having a bit of bread-making experience in my hands, I felt pretty confident moving through the steps and ended up with a lovely round loaf with a thick, crisp crust. If I had it to do again, however, I would opt for the loaf pan version. The cake flour in this recipe, though only a small portion of the total, is what I suspect made the crumb so soft and just slightly glossy/chewy/stretchy. Unlike some homemade bread that can’t handle sandwich duty without crumbling to bits, this tasty rye could easily flex to withstand the weight of a turkey slice or the pull of a thick peanut butter even (gasp!) untoasted.

Sir Mix-a-Lot


I used to say that bread kneading by hand was a great way to vent stress and anxiety after a long day at the computer. But I have just learned something very important: watching your brand new KitchenAid stand mixer knead that same dough can be just as, if not more, cathartic. After years of insisting that this appliance was just a pricey gadget I could get along without, we have become fast friends and I suspect are unlikely to part ways anytime soon.

Anxious to get things swirling, I mixed up a starter for my usual King Arthur French Baguettes before heading to bed last night. On reflection, however, this recipe didn’t seem quite difficult enough to christen the new arrival. Did I recall a bread recipe that required kneading until “your upper arms are strapless gown-ready”? I did. Unable to waste my already-started starter,  New York Deli Rye was simply added to the production docket.

Though I’d never tried out the rye recipe before, the baguettes have been made in this kitchen a few times already. This batch, however, was one of the best I’ve ever turned out. Perhaps less exhausted by the process than normal, I even felt that my shaping and baking were more professional. The spritzing and slashing and even the whole “ice in the cast iron under the loaves” were all accomplished. (In the case of the slashing of my dear baguettes, accomplished poorly, but I’ll keep practicing. When I did the rye, I fared a bit better. I found that it really helps matters to use just the very tip of a razor and say “aaaaand slash” aloud as you work.)

I don’t think the French need be jealous, but the New Yorkers may have something to fear over here in Baltimore. This is some seriously amazing rye bread. I did have to supplement the machine knead with a little old-fashioned counter work to get the dough a bit less sticky (one whole minute!), but I am quite confident that without a mechanical friend to lend a hand, we would never have gotten close.

Smelling pleasantly of yeasty bread, my kitchen is both toasty and full of potential toast! Now then, what can we mix next?

Did Someone Say Toast?


Toast, as friends well know, is one of my most favorite comfort foods. An odd choice for a wannabe foodie, perhaps, but I am the kind of low-rent aficionado who can still appreciate the power of crispy bread smothered in peanut butter. Especially when dad makes it.

My father being absent and my store-bought bread being moldy (ewwww, I hate that) when I went to make my midnight snack last night, I decided to stir up a batch of no-knead bread before retiring. This bit of yeasty deliciousness has already been blogged about endlessly elsewhere, but in the face of fancier loaves I had half-forgotten about my once go-to breakfast standby. Consider this post a shout out reminder for anyone else who may have also unintentionally pushed the recipe to the back of the box. It’s endlessly forgiving of sloppy measurement and substitutions. I like to cut the water down to 1.5 cups and sub in a cup of rye flour and some caraway seeds when I’m feeling fancy.  And if you have a fear of bread baking and have actually never even tried it, you can put that one to rest right now. If you can stir, you are prepared to succeed here.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I think I hear some fresh toast popping up!