29 September 2010
So sure, the world doesn't really need another banana bread recipe. My friend Justine just posted one the other day (with chocolate chips!) and if you Google “banana bread recipe” you get “about 3,330,000 hits.” But I needed something to work, and this always does.
There are two basic tricks to quick breads and muffins, first, don't over mix. Once you add the dry and wet ingredients together, stir just enough to get the flour wet, and then stop. Second, watch the bread, not just the time. For reasons known only to my oven, a recipe that took 45 minutes one day will take only 35 minutes the next time, and an overbaked quick bread is no one's friend.
Simple banana bread
½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-5 very ripe bananas (3 if they're big supermarket bananas, 5 if you've been seeking out smaller bananas because your toddler requests them twice a day.)
1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup add-in, optional (walnuts are a classic, but chocolate chips or chopped fresh cranberries are good, too.)
Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit
Butter and flour a bundt pan. (Or use baker's spray.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
With an electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Beat in sugar, again until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time until completely combined. Beat in vanilla. Beat in bananas (no need to pre-mash) starting with the mushiest one, adding next bananas when the previous one is well incorporated. It's okay to leave lumps so long as you don't mind lumps of banana in your banana bread. I happen to like them.
Put down the electric mixer and pick up a wood spoon or rubber spatula. (Do they still make rubber spatulas? Aren't they all silicone now?)
Add dry ingredients to banana mixture, folding gently just the flour is wet. Stop.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
24 September 2010
If you're starting with raw greens, count on prep time to wash, chop, cook and cool the greens before you start making the bread.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion
1 Tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons honey
2 ounces Parmesan cheese
Cut the ends off the stems and then cut out the rib of the greens from the leaves. Wash the stems thoroughly, then cut into small pieces, about ¼ inch. Add stems to the skillet, stir and cover. Cut onion in small dice and add to skillet, stir and cover. Wash leaves carefully, stack and cut into thin strips then cut again to make small squares. Add to skillet along with about 1 ounce of water, stir and cover until greens are dark and wilted, and stems are soft. Remove from skillet to drain and cool. This can be done up to one day ahead.
To make the bread:
Grate the parmesan cheese.
Stare at wet mix, and realize you are an egg away from a quiche.
Lightly oil the inside of a loaf pan.
Add wet mix to dry mix and stir only long enough to get all of the flour moist, then stop. You will be tempted to give it one more stir. Don't do it. This will never be smooth or pourable and you will look at the mass of stuff in your bowl and think “this will never work.” Breathe. It will be okay. Transfer mixture to loaf pan, smoosh it down into the corners a bit, smooth the top a bit, then put it in the oven and trust in your baking powder.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say — and to feel — “Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.” ~John Steinbeck
If you wish to annoy me, utter the phrase “just a story.” Mostly I hear it about the Bible, but people use it to deride almost anything with a narrative. “Just a story” is supposed to mean that we don't have to take it seriously because it's not REAL. Of course, anyone who has read The Velveteen Rabbit knows that real is a fluid construct. But then, The Velveteen Rabbit is “just a story.” (Unless you've ever loved anything enough to make it real. Then you know the truth.)
The Bible, of course, is “just a story.” And since it's just a story we can ignore it entirely, it's worthless. So are the Greek Myths and Aesop's Fables and the various tales told by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. They're all just stories, meant to distract us for a while until we can get back to serious real things that matter.
Your personal family mythology is “just a story.” It doesn't matter that Great-whatever Grampa came over on a boat with all of his worldly possesions in a single suitcase. It doesn't matter that your parents met at a mixer which your father was roped into after he attended a bachelor party and thus was already a bit drunk (true story) or that your father drove his motorcycle up and down your mother's street until she agreed to go out with him (probably false, as I don't think Dad owned a motorcycle.)
There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before. ~ Willa Cather
But why are those stories so distracting? Why does IMDb list 44 film adaptations of Cinderella, and Amazon more than 4000 books with Cinderella in the title. Even accounting for the marketing genius of Disney, that's a lot of Cinderella. Why do we love Cinderella? After all, it's just a story. The people in it are made up. Most of the people in the Bible are probably made up, too. If Moses was indeed a real person, then he probably wasn't quite how he is portrayed in the book of Exodus. Heroic tendencies, and even his fatal flaw, were probably buffed and polished over time to create the character we know now.
Their story, yours and mine -- it’s what we all carry with us on this trip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them. —William Carlos Williams
That's the reality: Cinderella and Moses and the turtle that the world rides on, even the story of how your great-whatever came to live here, they're all made up, the collective creations of many imaginations, of the people who told the stories and the ears that heard them, and the small children who asked “tell it again!” and “what happened next?” All those people shaping a story, saving it, noticing that their Aunt or Cousin or neighbor is just like one of the characters. How could anything real come out of that?
Nothing real has ever come out of anything else. If we pay attention, a story tells us about where people lived and what they ate and how they loved each other and what made them cry. There isn't anything else to know about people.
In the tale, in the telling, we are all one blood. Take the tale in your teeth, then, and bite till the blood runs, hoping it’s not poison; and we will all come to the end together, and even to the beginning: living, as we do, in the middle. ~Ursula K. Le GuinOur stories are real. They were created by real people, preserved by real people, and even the gods and demons in them are based on the things we know best: real people. The people in the stories, they are real, because we make them that way, just like the boy in The Velveteen Rabbit.
19 September 2010
A letter to Carol, head of Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue, regarding the two foster dogs we brought home yesterday.
Rhett and Ruffie behaved angelically all the way home, so still and quiet were they that we didn't notice that Rhett had also worked his way out of his harness. So when we got home, with the car backed in to the driveway up against the back gate, I opened the hatch prepared to catch Ruffie and deal with Rhett later. Instead both dogs bolted, one to the left and one to the right, and then raced together down the driveway and off down the sidewalk as if they knew where they were going.
Fortunately they were curious enough to explore up and down people's driveways, and my exceptionally nice next door neighbor, her daughter and daughter's boyfriend helped us corral them.
Once they were safely in our backyard we released the beagle, who wanted desperately for them to pay attention to her, to follow the proper dog protocols, but they were not interested and ignored her completely. They are still ignoring her this morning. They seem to know that she is not to be messed with, despite her size, so if they pick up something she wants, they drop it again as soon as she shows interest. You said that Ruffie is the softer of the two, but neither of them is a very dominant animal.
They have seen the cat, and are curious about him, lying down by the cat door to stare at him, but they're not barking or scrabbling at the door. I think if the cat ever decides to make an appearance he'll just be treated to a round of heavy sniffing and then left alone.
Rhett and Ruffie have been very gentle with the kids so far. Despite racing around the yard and around the house, at least until they settled down, they never knocked into anyone, and were very respectful of the boys. Ruffie walked right up to the toddler and sniffed him, which delighted the toddler. The toddler, keep in mind, is very new to toddling and therefore not always steady on his feet. Of course, we have taught both boys from the beginning to be gentle, but there is only so much you can expect from small boys in the gentleness department. Based on the dogs' reaction to the beagle and the kids I don't think there's any reason to worry about them being aggressive towards anyone or anything. I think they'd probably do well in any home.
They really are a bonded pair. Even in the backyard they stick together, separating only briefly. They actually remind me a bit of sheep with the way they will trot around shoulder to shoulder. We're going to take the on a walk with a coupler today or tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.
Ruffie especially likes to pick things up and carry them around. He can't be trusted with stuffed animals, but I think he will be quite content to leave them alone if there are enough sturdy dog toys to be carried. Both dogs have very soft mouths and will let me take things from them without any trouble.
I think their last owner let them on the furniture, or they're testing their limits here, because they've jumped up on the couch a couple of times. They're both so big that even if I were inclined to allow Golden Retrievers on my couch there wouldn't be room for the people with them there, so we're training them out of that trick. They get off the couch as soon as we tell them too.
I think you're right that they're not really eight years old, or if they are they have really marvelous bone structure, since I don't see any evidence of arthritis in either of them, which is surprising given their size and supposed age.
I'm going to trim their nails this afternoon and they have appointments for baths on Monday morning. I'll send you pictures when they're all clean and brushed. I think you really need new pictures for Petfinder because neither dog looks as old in real life as they do in the pictures you posted.
18 September 2010
If using bread pans, remove loaves from pans as soon as possible after removing from oven to prevent soggy crusts. Please wait at least 10 minutes before slicing. It will give you time to soften your butter and break out that jam you've been saving.
17 September 2010
12 September 2010
bunch fresh basil
While the tart is baking chiffonade your basil, then sprinkle it over top of the tart just after you remove it from the oven.
11 September 2010
09 September 2010
I was way behind on cookie delivery. A new baby arrived and I promised cookies, but then I got the plague (or a headcold, whichevs) and then and then and then...and then no cookies. Two years later the same mom had another baby and she let me come, even though I hadn't made her any cookies. The next day I brought these. Of course sometime during labor I promised her bread, so now I'm behind again.
Oatmeal is a common folk remedy for new mothers who are looking to increase their milk supply. While a bowl of hot oatmeal is a wonderful way to start the morning, and I would certainly fix it if I were staying with a new mom, it's hard to give as a gift. These cookies travel well, and while they're not quite as good for you as a bowl of steel cut oatmeal, I'd wager they're at least as wholesome as oatmeal from a packet, with the added advantage of being easy to eat one-handed during marathon nursing sessions.
Of course, these guys are so yummy there's no reason to wait for a new baby to make them.
What additions you use is up to you. Raisins are traditional, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are welcomed almost anywhere. Chopped nuts add some minerals, protein and healthful fats to the mix. You might be tempted to add more than 1.5 cups of additions, but I find that more than that makes it hard to taste the cookie, and hard for the dough to hold all the additions together.
There is no vanilla in these because I forgot it one day, and found that without the vanilla the flavor of the oats came through much better. You can add 1 teaspoon of vanilla if you like.
These are small and they bake up fast. They will look slightly underdone after 12 minutes, but they will continue cooking from the residual heat in the pan and the cookies themselves. If you bake longer than 13 minutes you'll get a very crunchy cookie.
If you are organized and/or patient, you can make the dough ahead of time and keep it, carefully wrapped, in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for two months.
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
6.25 ounces whole wheat flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup additions
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cream the butter with an electric mixer until butter lightens in color. Add sugars and cream again until mixture becomes fluffy.
Beat in egg until just combined.
Stir together oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and add to batter, stirring until just combined. Stir in nuts/raisins/chocolate or other additions, stir until evenly distributed.
Drop by tablespoonful on an ungreased baking sheet. Twelve cookies will fit comfortably on a standard cookie sheet. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack.
Makes 4-5 dozen
05 September 2010
|This is what happens when you don't apply a second coat of egg wash halfway through baking.|
Look, there's bread on breadwinesalt!
If you've never made yeast bread, this is a good place to start. It's a very forgiving dough, and the results are both beautiful and delicious. The key is to knead it thoroughly. I almost never measure flour when I'm making bread, because I do it enough that I can feel when there's enough flour. If you're just starting out I recommend adding in the minimum amount of flour and then adding more as you knead, just a sprinkle at a time. When the kneading is done you'll have added enough flour.
|These are braided round loaves with the second coat of egg wash. Much prettier.|
2.5 cups water, wrist temperature
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
4 Tablespoons softened butter or olive oil
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 Tablespoon salt
8-9 cups all-purpose flour
Clean an area of your countertop large enough to knead bread.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast, honey and water. Beat 100 times with a large wooden spoon. Add butter or oil, egg yolks, and salt and mix again until thoroughly combined. Add flour, about a cup at time, beating between additions, until the dough is too stiff to stir.
Sprinkle about 1 cup of flour in a circle about 1 foot in diameter on your immaculately clean countertop. Drop the dough out of the mixing bowl into the flour, sprinkle some flour from the counter onto the top of the dough and flour your hands. Begin kneading by pushing the dough away from you, then turning the dough 90 degrees and folding it in half. Continue pushing and folding until the dough begins to stick to your hands or the counter.
Sprinkle the dough and your hands with flour again, and continue kneading for 20 minutes, adding small quantities of flour as necessary.
When you are finished kneading, form the dough into a ball and leave it on the counter and scrub out your mixing bowl, first in cool water and then with hot. Dry with a clean kitchen towel. Coat the inside of the bowl lightly in butter or oil. Place the dough in the bowl and flip once so that all sides of the dough are oiled. Place the mixing bowl in a warm place and cover with the damp towel. Allow the dough to rise undisturbed until it has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour depending on temperature.
Clean your counter again.
When the dough has finished rising, sprinkle the counter very lightly with flour and dump the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for another 20 minutes, adding small amounts of flour only as necessary. If you are kneading by hand you are very unlikely to over-knead the dough.
When you're finished kneading divide the loaves in half and shape the loaves. The braid, above is the classic Challah shape. Divide each half of the dough into thirds and roll out into snakes about 18 inches long. Line up the snakes and braid. I find it easiest to start the braid in the middle and work to the end, then turn the dough around and braid the other side, this time passing strands under the braid instead of over. Tuck the edges under enough to make it pretty. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Place the loaves on baking sheets, cover and allow to rise approximately one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Beat one egg and brush (or, if you have lost your brush, ahem, use your clean fingers, they work great) the egg all over the top of the loaves. (Wash your hands) Bake for approximately 40 minutes, rotating the loaves and applying a second coat of egg wash, about halfway through baking, until the crust is dark brown and the other people in your house are begging for it to be done already.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before breaking out the bread knife.
If you happen to have leftovers the next day, this makes excellent French toast.