I don’t know if you’ve noticed that I tend to write more posts late at night. I do this because I do most of my work at night. So basically I write up recipes when I should be doing something else. I’m having a hard time writing the section of my paper on building certification in China, so I thought I’d write about bread and see if it got miraculously easier.
I doubt it, but let me hope, okay.
I got this recipe from the side of a bag of King Arthur bread flour. I think the recipes that come printed on packaging are seriously underrated. This bread, for example, is insanely delicious, and I could easily have missed out by tossing the bag out when I was done with it. Very foolish.
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp of honey (or brown sugar)
- 2 tsp instant yeast OR 1 packet of active dry yeast (if you use the latter you have to “activate” the yeast in a bowl of warm water first. Just pour it in and stir for a bit. There should be directions on the packet.)
- 1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk
The thing I love about bread is that it’s so easy to make and so deeply rewarding. I think a lot of people can be intimidated by bread because it involves yeast, and rising, and resting, and all sorts of mysterious stuff. But in fact, bread is just the beautiful and elegant application of friendly food chemistry. And, best of all, it results in bread. A friend of mine was talking about how much he loves bread and wants to make some someday because when you’re done, you’ve got this loaf, right. And the loaf is all yours. You made that entire damn thing, which you can toast, or use to make sandwiches, or puts eggs on, or eat with pasta, or use as a soup mop. It’s such an everyday item that, today, we imagine mostly as a processed product pre-sliced. But it can also be a magnificent and delicious act of creativity and science meeting in one yeasty, warm loaf.
Throw everything together in one large mixing bowl and beat until the stuff forms a “shaggy” dough (as the bag says).
Yes, that is a fleck of wrapper stuck to the butter. Yes, I removed it once I took the picture.
So now you want to knead by hand (10 minutes) or a bread machine (5 minutes. Also, what are you doing with a machine? This is the best part. Cut it out.)
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it hang out somewhere warm to do some rising. At this point, if you’re using a bread machine I cannot help you.
After about an hour, shape it into a log, applying flour to every surface that will touch the bread, including yourself.
Cover the log with plastic wrap and let it rise again for about 90 minutes. The recipe says to put it in a bread tin and wait until it crests the edges, but I don’t have a bread tin.
Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees from about 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and hollow sounding when you knock on the bottom. This may involve pulling the bread prematurely out of the oven and knocking on it. This is my other favorite part of baking bread.
I have some pictures of me crouched next to my oven holding my loaf and looking really triumphant, but they are silly so you cannot see them. (I was crouched next to the oven because my apartment is rather frigid, and I usually huddle with the oven for warmth when it’s on.)
But here are some things you can do with your bread:
Poach an egg and drop it on top. Or, scramble or fry the egg. Hard-boiled eggs will probably not work very well here.
Heap Nutella on top. Or pumpkin butter. I have put all sorts of things on this bread. Delicious.
The possibilities are endless. The loaf is yours. Go forth. And bake some bread.
One of my friends is taking a class on Modern Japanese History, and she gets to read this book by Haruki Murakami (I know I’ve mentioned him before) called Underground, which is actually non-fiction. It’s an aggregation of people’s stories who were the victims of a sarin attack on the Tokyo underground by a religious cult called Aum some years back. He interviewed a bunch of people and compiled all the stories in a book interspersed with some of the details of the attack–which lines were targeted by which cult members, that kind of thing.
So I checked it out a couple of days and I’m about halfway through. And… it’s an interesting experience because it’s at once very chilling and very mundane. The stories are told by normal people, with normal lives and feelings and personalities, so in that sense the book doesn’t feel like an account of such a dramatic, tragic, and eerie event. On the other hand, it is about a dramatic, tragic, and eerie event, and it’s a little bit terrifying as a result.
What I love best about it is that, aside from the bits of background information, it’s not about Aum. I still know nothing about them. Because they don’t matter. It’s the action that matters, but most importantly, it’s the people themselves. The ones who died, who were hospitalized for days, the ones who never recovered, the ones who want to forget, the ones who feel like they got off lucky. And I think this is how stories of crises should be told. I think it does the victims better justice, in any case, because trying to analyze the motives of, for example, a terrorist or an extremist group like Aum gives them power and legitimacy, and that should be the opposite of what we want.
In other news, a Chinese national won the Nobel Lit Prize today, making him the 3rd of 7 Nobel laureates in China who won in a field outside of physics.