Movie night with Book Club girlfriends: Canceled.
Kitchen oven: On!
I don't need much of an excuse to spend time in the kitchen baking, but last week's snowfall provided one anyway. I made two treats for post-shoveling snacking. The first was a loaf of whole wheat bread. I know that doesn't sound exciting, but honestly, how often do you bake bread? (If you answered, "a couple of times a year," or more, you already know the virtues of the homemade stuff.) In any case, the recipe (detailed below) produced good results with very little work.
Two notes before I lose my vegetable-advocacy credentials:
1. The bread goes well with my Vegetarian Split Pea Soup. When I made the soup last week, I used yellow split peas, a teaspoon of dried thyme rather than fresh, and I skipped the "puree" step and just let the soup cook longer (about an hour in total) until the peas broke down fully.
2. It's CSA sign-up time (at least, in these snowy climes). We're members, again, at Connors Farm. While I'm a fan of community-supported agriculture, I’m well aware of its pluses and minuses. If you have questions (or doubts) before joining up, I'm happy to provide honest answers.
Now, on to the baking:
No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour to be non-dairy. You can find slightly different versions of this recipe on packages of King Arthur whole wheat flour and on the company's web site.)
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbsp maple syrup (can substitute molasses or something similar)
1 envelope (1/4 ounce) instant yeast (also known as rapid-rise yeast)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups (12.75 ounces) whole wheat flour
Thoroughly grease a loaf pan, 8.5 inches by 4.5 inches. (Size matters here if you want a loaf of "sandwich" bread.) Combine the water, juice, vegetable oil, maple syrup, yeast, salt, and flour in a large bowl and beat vigorously for about three minutes. The result will be a very sticky, non-kneadable dough. (King Arthur Flour suggests beating the ingredients with an electric mixer on high speed. Alas, the dough was too stiff for my hand mixer, so I used a wooden spoon and brute force, with good results.)
Scoop the dough into the loaf pan, and spread it as evenly as possible. Cover the pan with a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes. The dough should come up to the rim of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the bread for 30 to 45 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 20 minutes. (Note: The flour package says 30 to 35 minutes; the web site says 40 to 45 minutes. I think my loaf took closer to 45 minutes.) To determine if the bread is done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of the loaf; it should register between 190 and 195 degrees F. The top will be golden brown.
Remove the loaf from the oven, let cool about 5 minutes, then turn the bread out onto a rack. Cool completely before slicing.
(From Taste of Home)
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Cream butter and brown sugar in a large bowl. Mix in the egg, milk, and vanilla, and beat well. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients gradually to the butter-sugar mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least several hours; the dough should have the consistency of fudge or truffles before shaping.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop up dough using a small spoon or cookie scoop, and shape into 1-inch balls using your hands. (I think mine were closer to 1.25 inches in diameter.) Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until the cookie tops are crackled. Transfer the baked cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Roll the cooled cookies in confectioners' sugar. Yield: about 4.5 dozen.