Sunday, October 12, 2008

Confessions of a Cranberry Addict

The sun is shining this morning. That bodes well for the day, I hope. Rain is forecast for tonight but for now, the sun is shining and I am up and planning my day.

Last night before going to bed I mixed up some simple sourdough starter. I prefer to start mine with a bit of yeast as the one time I tried to start it with wild yeast from the air,
the wild yeast went wild somewhere else. My starter turned a putrid pink and had to be dumped. Eeeeewww! This morning my starter is bubbling merrily on the counter in its crockery pot, the insert to one of my several slow cookers. They are perfect for making sourdough in.

I had taken some lean ground beef out of the freezer last night with the idea of making a hearty beef pie today for dinner. Soon another of my slow cookers is bubbling, this time with beef pie filling, redolent with onions, carrots, fresh chopped tomatoes, frozen peas, burger, bay leaves and beef broth. I am still trying to make up my mind whether to use puff pastry for the pie or pie pastry. Probably a last minute decision, but I am leaning towards the puff pastry.

Now that that is taken care of, I decide to make my Stuffing Bread dough. I found a good recipe on the internet
here and decided to try it. I made one change, deciding to throw in a handfull of dried cranberries [yes, I AM a dried cranberry addict. Sooo?] to give a sweet/tart bite to the onions and herbs in it. With one false start - the active dry yeast didn't want to desolve in the small amount of milk I put it in, so dumped it and started over with more milk - the dough was soon mixing up in the bread machine. This recipe called for 3 cups flour, 1/3 cup cornmeal as the main dry ingredients. That is a 1&1/2 pound loaf, in bread machine parlance. My big machine can make up to a 3 pound loaf of bread, so I figured maybe if I was lucky, it would fill the pan 2/3 to 3/4 full when fully risen.

The sunshine was calling us, so I took the dogs out into the yard. The thermometer on the deck said +12. Balmy for our recent weather. Out in the yard, by the garden boat where the sun is shining full on, it was almost hot. I had a sweatshirt on over my t-shirt and was very warm. We wandered about, enjoying the view. Mount Arrowsmith has new snow on the top, but the sky is Island blue, and the air is crystal clear. A gaggle of Canada Geese arrow over us, honking their way to feeding on the Canal. I pick up windfall apples and toss over the fence for the deer, carefully watching out for doggy mines. Fool me once...

Soon we are back indoors. I put more wood on the stove, then walk over to the bread machine to check the dough., it has risen right up so it's nose is pressed right against the glass of the machine! I quickly get a large Pyrex bowl and oil it, then remove the pan from the machine. Next I flour the counter top and soon have the dough ball in the bowl in a clear plastic bag rising again on the table. Oh my gosh but the dough smells and looks delightful! While working with it, I decide to try something I have seen mentioned on some bread baking blogs. I will divide the dough in half, then divide each half in quarters and will even scale the dough to be precise. Each piece of dough weighs in at 4oz and each of the 4oz mini loaves are then put into the prepared bread pan, like the 4th photo above, and then left to rise a third time - Active Dry yeast, remember - then baked. Can't wait to try it.

I think by now you have figured out that I am crazy about making and baking yeast breads of all kinds. Well, one of my all time favorite bread bakers and bread authors is Peter Reinhart. Crust and Crumb, and The Bread Baker's Apprentice
are two of my favorite of his books. Recently on his Blog, he put out a request for applications from ordinary folk like me to test bread recipes for his new book. I immediately applied, not expecting to be accepted as I am in Canada and he is in the USA. Imagine my surprise upon checking my e-mail early last week and discovering I had been chosen as one of 300 testers!

I will post from time to time how I do with the recipe testing. The recipes of course are secret. I will be making this totally by hand, not using the bread machine to mix the dough, but I have my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer so can use that hopefully. Never the less, I cannot wait to get started. Bente and Richard will be so sick of eating bread by the time I am done. May have to send some with Bente down to Codfather Seafood for them to try too if I get too many loaves baked. Boy I am going to be learning so much from this. Crust and Crumb was the first book I borrowed from the library when I started my foray into serious bread baking a few years ago. It taught me a lot, and it got me hooked on bread formulas, and baker's math.

The Stuffing Bread is on it's third rise, and I am feeling slightly peckish. Surf the bread cupboard and discover a piece of the Cinnamon Swirl from yesterday hidden away. Slathered in butter it will make a delightful, albeit very sweet snack. I decide to make another one of those after the bread has risen, but this time I will try some dried cranberries in it and use less sugar when I make the topping. Sorry Bente but it really is too sweet. I want to try one with dried cherries and one with dried blueberries, and when I can find just the right apples, some with chopped apple as well. Hmmmm, I DID buy some dried apples at the store last week, maybe give them a try. Maybe dried cranberries and dried apples...

...I walk by the rising bread 10 minutes after I put it in the pans and it is really rising up. Will have to warn Kate about this when I send her the recipe to try. Her machine makes a maximum of 2 pound bread loaf so she will have to cut waaaaaaaay back on the yeast or it will push the lid of the bread maker up and escape out on to the counter. Attack of the killer bread dough!

Time for another foray out into the yard with the dogs. The sun has disappeared in preparation for the rain tonight I guess. We wander a bit, then stand looking at the scenery. For a few moments, it is absolutely quiet, no sounds of traffic from the road, only the croak of a distant tree frog and squawk of a Stellar Jay down on the Creek. I revel in it, but soon the outside world intrudes and we wander back indoors. Time to bake the Stuffing Bread and make some Cinnamon Swirl, with my modifications.

I almost feel like making some Brioche too. Maybe if I sit down and read a bit, the feeling will go away. I think I have done enough today. Richard will be home in 2 hours from work and I still have to finish the beef pie. Oh, wait a minute, hey, I know, not pie, well not like a pie in pie dough anyway. Shepherd's Pie!! That's what I'll make. Will thicken the broth on the filling with dehydrated potato flakes, make mashed potatoes for the top, a gravy for over that, then put it together and bake. Yup, that's settled.

Will let you know how the bread turns out. Both of them.


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