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 #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 #1 – Carrot Top Pesto

One thing I dislike about recipes is the tendency to be vague (how big is a pinch and what’s a knob of butter?).  It’s okay to cook with instinct, but what if you don’t have any instinct?

The recipe I found for Carrot Top Pesto said that you need the greens from 1 bunch of carrots. What does that mean? How many are in a bunch? Why is there no weight measurement?

When I made this I decided to half the other ingredients, just in case. I only had about 7 small carrots, so I wasn’t sure if I would have enough greens. Turns out I had enough for the full recipe.

Also, I discovered that my food processor attachment doesn’t work that well. The blades don’t go far enough out to the sides so there were still some stalks and leaves left in there and it was chunkier than normal pesto. I also didn’t measure my lemon juice (I didn’t have a lemon but I had some juice so I poured it in until I thought ‘good enough’ – see, even I’m guilty of vagueness!). It was quite lemony, but luckily I like things tart.

Carrot Top Pesto

  • greens from one bunch of carrots (8ish?)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon (1 Tbsp maybe?)
  • 2 cloves of garlic

Wash and dry greens. Pulse in blender with other ingredients until it becomes a pesto-like consistency (or, if you’re like me, until you’re tired of trying). If it’s still pretty pulpy, add a bit more olive oil.

End Result: I spread this on a piece of bread and it was delicious – lemony, garlicy, and green. The next time I buy carrots I’m going for the ones with tops.

pesto2

Quiche!

Question: What do you do with left-over pastry?

Answer: Make quiche, of course!

I had some left over pastry* from my Pi-Pie, so I figured that I should use it before it became un-useable (however long that is). I wasn’t in the mood to make another pie, so I thought “Why not make some quiche?” I had eggs, I had cheese, I had bacon… I didn’t have much else, but that would do.

I eyeballed that there should be enough pastry for about 4 mini-quiches, which would give me 4 meals**, so I cut the pastry in 4 pieces and went about rolling it. Now, I’m not that good at rolling really nice circular pastry, but I’ve decided that quiche doesn’t have to be neat.

Therein lies the difference between baking and cooking. For me, baking means being really precise about how much stuff I put in, while cooking is more flying by the seat of my pants. With baking I take meticulous notes, but cooking is just me throwing things in the pot/pan until it tastes good.

A good example of my cooking method is how I made these quiches. I only have 2 small tins, so I could only make 2 at one time. I got out two eggs, beat them up a little, added some pepper and cream, and then the cheese and bacon. I divided the mixture between the tins, trying to keep the division of bacon & cheese equal. The tins looked a little under-filled, so I added more cream of course.

I set the oven to 350F and put them in for 20 minutes. After that I glanced at them and saw that they still wobbled, so I left them in for another 10 minutes. That seemed to do the trick.

For my second batch I mixed up the eggs, pepper, and cream, and then divided it into the tins. Then I added the bacon and cheese, to ensure that each quiche had enough. When mixing it all together, I had to be careful not to pierce the pastry, but it only needed gentle mixing. Then, based on the previous quiches, I put it in the oven for 30 minutes. Et voila!

And that’s how I make quiche. I really liked the taste of the pastry, so I consider that recipe a winner. Also, I made my co-workers very jealous of my lunch***, so double win!

quiche2
As long as it tastes good, it doesn’t have to look good.

*Actually, I think I made the full recipe of pastry that time, but only used half of it to see if I could get away with using only half of it. Thus, left-over pastry.

**I’ve started meal-planning lately and it’s working out really well, since I don’t mind eating the same thing for lunch 3-4 days in a row.

***We keep trying to out-do each other with our delicious foods. It’s quite fun.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Pie 2 – Pie Harder!

Now that I am a pie-master* I figured that I could do something I’d wanted to do for years. I was going to celebrate Pi Day with an actual Pie actually made by my actual self!

I added extra sugar to the pie crust, which made it better. Is it the best? Probably not, but it suffices. I did cut back a little on the sugar for the filling but I wouldn’t do that next time. Rhubarb’s tart, y’all.

Also, I decided to take Hollywood’s advice and mix the pastry with my hands.  I’m a very hands-on baker usually, so it seemed right.  It only got weird when I added the cold water because the mixture was quite slimy until the water was fully integrated.

This time I decided to use a smaller pie tin. I only have 2 sizes, so I really hoped that it would be fine. I’m pretty sure I rolled my crust too thin**, but the filling was a bit too much. The solution to this is obvious, of course. No, I’m not going to buy another pie tin or put in the correct amount of rhubarb – next time I’ll simply make a mini-pie or 2 to go along with the big pie!

I did not attempt a lattice this time ’round. Instead I went with a full cover. However, that’s a bit boring, so I decided to cut some diamonds in the crust. Then I decided to put little ‘pi’s around the edges, in honour of Pi Day. I still had a bit of pastry let over, so I cut out diamonds to adorn the rest of the crust.

Also, I forgot to do an egg wash.  Turns out the egg wash makes the pie look much more finished (and prettier).

pipie
C’est magnifique, non?

Rhubarb-Vanilla Pie (modified)

Preheat oven to 375.  Put the tray in the bottom third of the oven.

CRUST****:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes (1/2 in)
  • 2-3 Tbsp ice-cold water

Mix together flour, sugar & salt.  Rub in butter until finely crumbled.  Add water, 1 Tbsp at a time until pastry forms.  Separate into 2 pieces, wrap with plastic & chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.  While that’s happening…

FILLING:

  • 600g frozen rhubarb
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla

Combine rhubarb and sugar in a large saucepan, over high heat.  Boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring often, until mixture is very thick (20 to 35 mins?*****). Stir in vanilla and cool for 5 minutes, or however long it takes you to roll out the pastry for the bottom & transfer to the pan (be sure to get it to the edges!).  Fill with the rhubarb mixture.

Roll out the second pastry piece and put over the top of the pie.  Crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork.  Use remaining pastry for decorations.

EGG WASH:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp water

Beat egg and water in small bowl.  Brush over the top of the pie.

Bake pie in lower third of your oven, at 375F until golden brown (50-60 mins).  Transfer pie to a rack & cool at least 1 hour.

Happy (Belated) 3.141592 Day!

*Pie master in that I’m the best pie-maker in my house. My cat has yet to figure out the rolling pin.

**The recipe probably stated how thick to roll out the pastry, but I didn’t pay attention***

***I just checked and it had no note of how thick the bottom pastry should be. Vindication!

****This is half the original recipe, so if it’s not enough for you then you could double it.

*****The recipe says “until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, but how is a person supposed to know that?  Should you take out the boiling mixture and put it in a measuring cup? But it’s boiling?!