Why BAKE Bread When You Can PLAIT Bread!

Honestly, I’m not good with bread.  I know lots of people who can make it, but each time I try, I find fault with it.  I’ve no instincts about mixing, kneading, rising, or anything.  I mean, my bread is edible, but it’s nothing to write home about.

So, in the interest of having fresh bread in my apartment, I bought a bread maker.  The transaction was simple enough – I just had to:

  • search for a good bread maker on sale
  • purchase said bread maker
  • once home, realize that the guide for the bread maker doesn’t include simple recipes
  • search the interwebs for a basic white bread recipe
  • fail to realize that the recipe is for a bigger bread maker until you see it mushroom over the top
  • get your sister to send along her recipes for a bread maker
  • realize that you don’t like the shape of the bread pan, so figure out the dough-making setting
  • make more bread, because you live for trial and error

 

Now let’s go back to a few days ago.  The conversation in my head went like this:

  • 8am: I’m low on bread.  I should make some when I get home from work
  • 5pm:  Why don’t I do a plaited* loaf?  I bet there are instructions online!
  • 8pm:  Is it going to rise more?  Will I be able to use this loaf for sandwiches?  My whole reason for making bread was to make sandwiches.
  • 10pm:  This bread is Bake-Off worthy!

If you ask me, it turned out pretty darn good – which is amazing considering that I lost track of how much flour I was putting into the pan, and had to keep checking on it to make sure it wasn’t too doughy or too stiff**.

I went with 3 different recipes – one bread recipe, one instructional on plaiting, and one on baking the loaf.  The bread recipe was a basic white that wasn’t intended for the bread-machine, but I layered the ingredients the proper way and it all worked out.

The plaiting instructions said that the dough should have time to rest as you’re plaiting it, but I didn’t want the strands to rise too much on their own, so I went faster than the recipe instructed.  Trying to stretch the dough into strands was more difficult than I thought it would be – I was worried I’d tear the dough, but when I tried to roll it, it wouldn’t roll. Somehow I managed to get 4 strands each about 15″ long.

The baking recipe said to let the bread rise on a baking sheet, and it said nothing about covering it with plastic.  My instincts said that should I cover it with plastic, but I held back, and it rose pretty well.

When I sliced into it I was worried that the bread would break apart, but it was only difficult for the first few cuts.  The middle pieces were bound together better than the end pieces, so they’ve been easier to cut.  It probably helps that the bread has been sitting for a few days.

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White Bread:

  • 1 1/8 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 4g yeast

Once the dough setting is finished, take bread out and let rest for a few seconds.  Then, separate the dough into 4 equal parts.  Roll the parts out into strands (the longer the strand, the thinner the bread will be).  Then plait the dough.  The 4-strand recipe I used came from this website: How To Braid Bread.  Try to make the plaits tight, so that the bread with bind together easier.

braidedbread01

Once that was done, I switched to this recipe: 8-Strand Plaited Loaf.  I let the loaf sit on a floured baking sheet for an hour to rise, then bushed with a beaten egg (if you want your loaf to look great and have a shiny brown top, don’t skip this step).  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.  Once removed from the oven, tap the bottom to see if it sounds hollow – if so, it’s baked!  Go you!

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*I’ve already been informed by a friend that in Canada we call it Braided Bread, but I’m learned about this on British TV, so I can’t stop calling it Plaited Bread.

**Next time I make bread I’m going to pre-measure my ingredients.  It worked out this time, but next time I might not be so lucky…

 

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CSA Recipe #6 – Fresh Rhubarb Mini-Pies

[NOTE: I totally forgot to schedule this one to go up, but I figured that I might as well publish it late and round-out the CSA challenge (it wasn’t really a challenge).]

Along with the strawberries, choosing the rhubarb was a no-brainer choice of all the CSA offerings.  There are lots of other recipes out there for rhubarb, but now that I can make pie I want to make pie ALL THE TIME!

A while back I bought a kitchen scale and it was a fantastic purchase.  I had no idea how much I would use it.  So after cutting up my rhubarb I measured it on it the scale.  I had almost 200g – barely 1/3 of what my recipe called for (which was already less than the original recipe needed).

Never one to be deterred, I cut the filling recipe down to 1/3 and decided to make 2 small pies.  I made the full crust recipe, though, so I still have some left-over crust in my fridge for more pies or quiches.

Rhubarb and Vanilla Pie Recipe Found Here!

Notes:

  • Fresh rhubarb is different to cook than frozen, but it took about the same amount of time to make the filling (about 20 mins).  I’d keep going ‘Is this done already?’ and then waiting and then going ‘Oh, no it totally wasn’t done. But is it done now?’.
  • Do the egg wash because your pie will look a lot better. A trick, if you have extra crust, is to use the left-over egg to make quiche.
  • I used a thicker crust than normal for the bottom of the pies because I wanted them to hold their shape outside of the tin.
  • I can lattice really well when it’s only 4 strips.  Someday I may work my way up to 9.

CSA Recipe #5 – Strawberries and Cream

Strawberries are good enough on their own, but I was looking for a little something extra. Luckily, I had some whipping cream in my fridge (for another recipe that I had to put on hold because my fridge was super full of vegetables).

I looked up some websites about making whipped cream in a jar (my hand-mixer is super dead), and I found one that seemed legit so I went for it.

At first I used a small salsa jar (about 485ml), but after shaking for 2 minutes I noticed that the cream hadn’t solidified much but it was getting bigger.  I was worried that it wouldn’t have room to “grow” so I switched to a larger salsa jar (800ml approx).

A minute or so shaking that jar and I finally got something resembling cream!  And a really tired arm!

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup whipping cream (cold)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 pinches of white sugar

Put all ingredients in a jar (preferably something around 800ml) and shake like crazy.

I chilled my first (small) jar in the fridge just in case, even though the website said that it wasn’t necessary. When I switched to the large jar I didn’t have time to chill it and it seemed to work fine, so I’m guessing that as long as your cream is cold you’ll be fine.

Cut up some strawberries, add them to the cream, and nom nom nom.

End Result: It wasn’t sweet enough for my tastes, so I’ll add more sugar next time (maybe 1/2 tsp or 1 tsp, or maybe icing sugar instead of granulated… hmm). It also wasn’t quite thick enough, but my arm was super tired. Starting with a larger jar should fix that problem.

The leftover cream went in the fridge & had started to lose its shape by the next day. I can only assume that more shaking will bring back its shape.

CSA Recipe Fail – Roasted Sweet Turnips

I’ll admit that I panicked.  There were so many vegetables in my fridge and I didn’t know how long they would stay good, so I wanted to cook the turnips before I left it too long and had to throw them out.  I’m only human, see, and as a human I am prone to making bad decisions.  I tell you this because mistakes are a great learning tool for me.

I had already turned the oven on for the beets, so I figured that I might as well roast some sweet turnips as well.  I wasn’t planning on eating them at the moment, but I figured that I could treat them as “leftovers”.

The problem was that I didn’t have a real/meal plan.  As any good heist movie will tell you, you need a plan.

I was thinking of making turnip greens to go with it, but then I remembered that I didn’t really like greens (it’s more of a texture thing than taste).  So after cooking the turnips I put them in the fridge in the hopes that I would think of something to add to them.  I didn’t think of anything, however, so a couple days later I re-heated them and ate them as is.  At that point I learned that some of them weren’t quite cooked all the way through.  I had even cooked them for 15 extra minutes. Next time I’ll put the oven at 425, like the beets, instead of 350.

If I had just calmed down and made a plan it would have been better.  I would have realized that I just needed to go to a store and buy potatoes and carrots, and then I could make a hash (something we always had for breakfast the morning after Sunday dinner, using up any leftover boiled carrots, potatoes, and turnips).  It could have been much more delicious.

Next time, turnips. Next time.

 

 

 

CSA Recipe #4 – Penne Pasta with Beet Greens & Feta

I have a lot of beet greens to work with.  I wanted to do something more than toss them in a salad, so it’s a good thing I found this recipe.  Actually, it’s a great thing I found this recipe, since it is delicious.

How did I find it?  I can’t remember.  I was probably searching for “beet greens + pasta” in Google, hoping to get a few easy recipes.  I don’t even know if I found a recipe or if I just saw the title and went “Yes… That one…”

And even with my limited skills it was delicious. It made a hell of a mess of my pot (melted cheese is delicious but can be difficult to clean), but I forgive it.  I could never stay mad at you, Feta Cheese.

Penne Pasta with Beet Greens and Feta

  • Penne Pasta
  • Beet Greens
  • Feta Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Seasoning (I used Italian & Greek)

Blanch the Greens.  Cook the pasta until al dente (instructions should be on the box, if you have the kind that comes in a box).  Drain the pasta & put back in a pot on almost-medium heat.  Add olive oil & Italian spices & Greek spices, mix together.  Add the greens & feta & toss until all ingredients are warm.

EAT.

End Result: I can’t explain why I love this dish so much – maybe it’s the cheese?  But it’s easy enough (only 1 veg to blanch this time), not many ingredients, and you can make a whole bunch at one time (yay leftovers!).

 

 

CSA Recipe #3 – Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

I was thinking of bottling the beets I got, but then I read some recipes and it all seemed like too much work (plus I only had about 5 beets). So I went with the next best thing – beet and goat cheese salad.

If you mention that something has goat cheese in it I’ll go for it.  I had a salad like this at Bistro Le Coq a while ago, which was delicious, so I was more than ready to try and replicate it.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Roasting Beets:

Cut the leaves off the beets, leaving about an inch of stem (don’t cut off their roots). Wash and dry the beets.

Put the beets on tin foil, drizzle with olive oil, then wrap up the beets in the tin foil.  Bake at 425 for about 1 hour. The beets are done if a knife goes through them easily (try not to pierce the foil while doing this).

Remove the beets from the oven (be careful because there will probably be a bunch of beet juice in the foil which will dye everything pink) and let them cool down enough to be handled. Cut off the tops and the roots, then peel the skins off. Your hands will turn pink, as will everything else the beets touch, but if you rinse your hands after each beet you should be fine.

Salad Making:

Cut the beets into pieces (I cut them in half and then sliced them). Cut up lettuce, top with beets and chunks of goat cheese.  Top with dressing.

Dressing:

Mix together equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, then add some freshly ground pepper. Top salad with dressing.

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End Result: YES. I could probably add something else to the salad, since it seems very basic, but roasted beets are delicious and goat cheese is awesome.

CSA Recipe #2 – Noodles with Julienne Carrots and Bok Choy

When I realized that I had vermicelli noodles and bok choy I knew I wanted to make this. Not that I had a recipe.  I googled, found a few, and went for the easiest one. Well, maybe it wasn’t the easiest. It involved blanching vegetables, a thing I’ve never done before.

Making this took way longer than I thought. There was the carrot washing, the drying, the dicing (I really should buy a kitchen mandolin), doing all of that for the bok choy, then the cooking, the cooling, the patting dry again, and oh man there are so many steps to this. I suggest taking time to prep and being better organized than I was.

This is one of those recipes where there’s not really a recipe (hypocrite, thy name is me).  You add in as much as you think you’d like.  I had 7 small-ish carrots and one little head of bok choy, and then two big handfuls of noodles (I made enough for left-overs).  Next time I’d add more bok choy or maybe some other veggie (I don’t know… snow peas?).

Noodles with Julienne Carrots and Bok Choy (An approximation)

Blanching:

Wash, dry, and peel the carrots. Cut into long thin shapes (I tried for slightly larger than matchstick-size, but I lack consistency). Do the same for the bok choy.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the carrots for 60 seconds, remove carrots using a slotted spoon (or sieve if you don’t have a slotted spoon), put into a colander and rinse under cold water for 60 seconds. Dry.

Using the same pot of water, put in the bok choy for 30 seconds, remove, rinse under cold water, dry.

I was going to use the same pot for the noodles but the bok choy turned the water green. I was worried about my noodles tasting too ‘greeny’, so I poured it out and brought another pot of water to boil. Thankfully I had carrot top pesto to make while I was waiting.

  • Side note: the blanched veggies smelled and looked great. The blanching is supposed to kill enzymes or something. I’ve always just used them raw, but this is an interesting way to pre-cook them.

The noodles went in for 1 minute, then were rinsed under cold water. The recipe I found said to chop the noodles into 6 inch pieces so that they’d fry better, but since the noodles were just a huge mass I wasn’t very precise.  I may have gone a bit knife-crazy, because I ended up with diced noodles that were 3″ or less. At least that made it easier for me to eat this dish with a spoon.

Frying:

I heated up some sesame oil in the pan (enough to cover the pan), and added the noddles. Then I added the carrots and bok choy, and some soy sauce. I pretty much added soy sauce until it turned the colour I wanted. Then I added some greek spice mix, because I was worried that it would be bland.

I was super hungry by this point so I just cooked everything until my patience ran out.

However, I made sure to toss sesame seeds on top before eating, to make it look good.

End Result: Good enough, but could have used more spices/veggies.