Sunday, 30 March 2014

Sometimes You Just Gotta Hit the Road

So I've been teaching for the first time this semester...which explains why I posted once this semester and then never again.

I've learned a lot from the experience, including food-related things such as making most of my meals for the week over the weekend. Soup Forever!

But today, I plan to write about something else.

Something perfect for the stresses and frustrations of PhD life.

(my skill at photography is legendary)

I make a lot of my own bread, for the same reasons that other people play lots of video games, or go to the gym, or go stare at cat pictures for a very long time: it's fun. It helps. Breadmaking has the wonderful advantage that it allows you to punch something, and the more you punch, the tastier it gets.

It has the disadvantage that it takes a lot of time, and you need to be in a position to pay attention to how long things are taking. But other than that, it takes simple, cheap ingredients, and did I mention you get to punch things?

Oatmeal Bread

(adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant)

1 c of water
1 c milk
2 c oatmeal

1 tbsp yeast
1/2 c lukewarm water

1/2 c brown sugar
1 c white flour

2 1/2 c wholemeal flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

Heat the milk and water in a saucepan on the stove until boiling. Before your stove is covered in a mess, take it off and add the oatmeal. Allow this to cool until the bottom of the bowl is warm to the touch but not hot and you can comfortably touch the oatmeal mixture.

While your oatmeal is cooling down, boil water in the kettle. Pour out half a cup into a shallow bowl and allow it to come to a temperature that's still warm but cool enough you can stick a finger in. Add and dissolve the yeast.

When the oatmeal is sufficiently cooled, add the yeast mixture and the brown sugar. Stir it all together, and add the cup of white flour. This is what the recipe calls a sponge. Cover it with a tea towel, put it in a warm place (the top of the refrigerator is where mine goes.) Go watch an episode of a TV show on Netflix do something else for 45 minutes.

Now comes the punching! Add the salt and add about 2 cups of wholemeal flour. You may need a little more--you want a stiff, dry dough, with almost all of the flour mixed in.

Dump your dough onto a floured surface (this is where that last 1/2 cup of flour comes in) and start kneading. The dough is pretty stick, so oil your hands first. Using the heels of your hands, stretch the dough away from you, then fold it, flip it, and repeat. You want to do this for at least 5-7 minutes, until the dough has a bit of give (what recipes call elastic). 

Wash your bowl or find a new one. Give it a light coating of oil and dump in the dough, turning to coat the top. Cover it with a tea towel again and go do something else for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. (It's almost impossible to tell when it's doubled, so I generally go for visibly bigger. This is the part where you can let it rise for the length of TV show episode, or forget a bit, and let it alone for two. Nothing terrible is going to happen.)

Punch the dough down and shape it into a loaf by folding the edges under until you have a tubular thing that will fit in an oiled loaf pan. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes, pr until the loaf visibly gotten bigger.

Preheat the over to 180C/350F and bake for about forty minutes, until the loaf is browned and sounds hollow when you knock on it.

Turn it out on a wire rack and let it cool.

Makes five-six breakfasts (10-14 slices of bread, depending on how generously you cut). Oatmeal bread is incredible with peanut butter.