Saturday, July 12, 2008

I don't bake.

One of my favorite geeky quotes of all time comes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In a sisterly moment between Buffy and our favorite foreign slayer , Kendra, Buffy leans in for a hug but is stopped by Kendra who says in a very Jamaican-ish accent, "I don't hug!" Only, my version is, "I don't bake!"

It's true. I don't bake. Well, it's not so much that I "don't" bake, it's that I can't bake well. My problem is that I learned to cook from my mother. She rarely used a recipe. She always improvised. So that's what I do. The catch is that on the stove, you can do that. The oven is not so forgiving. Cooking on the stove is more of an experiment. You add things as you go along, you taste to see where it is, the
n you add something else to take it a little further. Baking requires planning ahead. You have to have everything in the beginning. There's no sampling. No testing. It's a one shot deal. Sit back and hope it works.

In my efforts to eat a little healthier, I've been concentrating on more "whole foods." I don't mean the store - although I love that place. A friend recently referred to them as "Whole Paycheck" because that's what it costs to shop there. By whole foods, I mean more whole grains, less processed foods - that "closer to the earth" idea. So that's what I'm doing - to a point.

One of my big weaknesses has always been bread. And not the foamy white crap. I want a thick, hearty, wheaty, grainy, dense slice of goodness. Lisa and Troy turned us on to this sprouted grain bread they found at Costco, of all places. We LOVED it. But of course, the only Costco near us doesn't carry it. I bought a loaf of Ezekiel bread which is good, but go back to that whole paycheck issue. So in a moment of brilliance, I remembered that we have a bread maker that we haven't used in a long time, or much (other than the traditional hurricane loaf - shout out to my girl in the big O R).

So after looking at a few recipes, doing a little shopping, I get everything out and start building. 4 2/3 cup of whole weat flour. Okay. I imagine I can use 2 cups of whole wheat, 1 cup of rye flour, 1 cup of graham flour (what they hell IS "graham flour" anyway), maybe a half a cup of oats, and a third of a cup of flax seed. Okay - that takes care of the flour part. The rest is pretty simple. Salt, water, brown sugar and yeast. Before I can stop myself, I'm rumaging
through the cupboards looking for anything else I can throw in there. I come up with walnuts. That can't be bad. Okay - half a cup of crushed up walnuts. What else... I find another package of seeds. Pine nuts. What the hell. Toss 'em in. I still can't believe that the recipe doesn't call for egg or milk. Surely that was a misprint on the recipe book. I resist my urge and decide against it. I rummage a little longer looking for anything that sounds like something I'd like in bread, but I stop there. As I pass by the machine, watching the dough through the little window, it looks REALLY dry. I don't think it's supposed to do that. Then I realize I didn't compensate water for the added oats. So I added about another half a cup. But it was so dry it couldn't mix. I opened the door again and smashed it up by hand. The end result wasn't bad. It didn't rise well, but we had an 8 pound loaf of bread. It tasted good - but it wasn't pretty.

This morning I'm making my second attempt. I've almost left the recipe alone. I've used the same flour concoction, and added a little more water, some blueberries that were almost done, and some cinnamon. It appears to be rising. So far so good.

Well, I think it came out pretty well! It rose a little better, so it's not quite as heavy. Still not pretty, but it's tastey! I'm happy with it.

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