What does the last of the housewives do?

Tag: Bread

White Bread

I do appreciate that everyone is entitled to holidays, even the hard working Vietnamese couples that slave away at all hours of the day and night at our local hot bread shop. I hope they’re having a lovely time. What I should have done is to buy a whole lot of bread before Christmas and stuck it in the freezer, not that there would have been any room with all the ice blocks I was making. But I didn’t, so here we are with no bread. Oh, yes, I could go up to the nearest mall because Baker’s Delight doesn’t go on holidays, but then the Horror will want to come too and he’ll want a milkshake and a surprising amount of sushi and then I’ll have to have a coffee to cope with him and then a loaf of bread will have ended up costing me thirty dollars. I’m going to have to make it myself.

I have alluded to this method of making bread when I was chatting about cheese and bacon rolls a while back. It isn’t a method that requires a whole lot of kneading, but you do have to stay a little focused, otherwise you get the risings all wrong and you end up with a loaf that looks like a depressed Frenchman. This method comes from that monumental tome, The Cook’s Book.

Place in a bowl twenty grams of fresh yeast with three hundred and fifty grams of water. Squash up the yeast with a fork until it’s dissolved. Add five hundred grams of flour and about ten twists of the salt shaker. Mx it all up with your hands until the flour is incorporated, then cover it with a damp tea towel and go fold sheets for about ten minutes. Pour a slug of nice olive oil over the dough and knead it in. Go pay a phone bill or two. Repeat with the olive oil and the ten minute pause until you’ve done it three times. Leave the dough covered in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. This is very dependent on how warm the spot you’ve left it in is. Often I put it in the oven with just the light on, but today my oven is occupied with ginger nuts, so I’ve placed it in the square of sunlight that comes through the kitchen skylight and moves like a laser beam through the room during the afternoon, melting everything in its deadly path.

Once it has doubled, punch it about a bit and manhandle it into a loaf tin that has been lined with baking paper. Leave it again, covered with a damp tea towel, until it has doubled in size. For my sized tin, this is when it’s doughy shoulders have just risen above the sides of the tin.

You put it in a hot oven, about two hundred and twenty degrees for fifteen minutes. You can mess about with brushing the top with water and slashing it with a sharp knife, but nobody really cares about that kind of stuff among my consumer base. Drop the temperature to one hundred and eighty degrees Celsius and bake it for a further thirty to forty minutes, but keep an eye on it. It should be all brown and crusty looking on top and sound hollow when you, feeling slightly foolish, knock on its top.

Once it’s out of the oven, lift it out of the tin by the baking paper, otherwise it’s sides will get damp as it cools. My grandma says you shouldn’t eat bread the day it’s baked, it’ll give you a tummy ache. I defy you to try abstaining from chopping off the end of your loaf and slathering it with butter and possibly Vegemite while it’s still warm. I’m willing to risk a tummy ache.


Cheese and Bacon Rolls

Great excitement in the house of muttering, the Muffet’s school social is on tonight, and there’ll be boys. Not that the Muffet is too fussed, she gets way too much boys at home, that’s why she likes going to a girls’ school. She’s bringing home Lindy Lu so that they can spend the afternoon giggling and doing each other’s hair in preparation. They’ll be hungry. The boys both have sport today, they’ll be hungry too. I think cheese and bacon rolls are in order.

This is yet another idea I got from the Thermomix demonstration, it’s the party that keeps on giving. Why did I never think of it myself, I’ve made my own bread quite a lot. You need a loaf’s worth of bread dough, and you may have your own recipe for that. If you don’t, here’s what I do.

In a metal bowl, place ten grams of fresh yeast, which if you live where I do you can purchase at the local IGA for about sixty cents for fifty grams. Dissolve it in 350 mls of water. If you remember any high school science you’ll know that the density of water is one kilo per litre, so you can just weigh it out. Add five hundred grams of flour and about ten turns of the salt grinder and mix it up. Cover it and leave it for about ten minutes, then come back, pour a teaspoon of olive oil over it and knead it in. Repeat a couple of times. Leave it until it looks about doubled in size. If you want to speed that up because it’s a cold wet day, put it in the oven with the light on. I’m still excited to have an oven with a working light, it’s just had its first birthday.

Then dump it on to a floured bench top and knead it some more. You really don’t need to go overboard with the kneading, despite what you may hear. Just make sure it’s smooth and elastic. Roll it out into a big rectangle and start getting creative. I sliced off a couple of rectangles and pulled them out to be longer. Some of them I spread Vegemite on for the Moose who doesn’t like melted cheese. I know, I know. Some I sprinkled with chopped up bacon and grated cheese. some just cheese. If you’re a bit reckless with your shaping and actually start with a long triangle, when you roll it up it’s shaped like a croissant. I also did traditional cheese and cheese and bacon rolls with the stuff on top. Because I ran out of bacon, I also did some square plain rolls.

Pop these back in the oven with the light on for about half an hour, or not if you’ve run out of time. Bake for about half an hour at 180 degrees Celsius. This way you can use nice Australian bacon rather than that alarming pink rubbery stuff you get up at James’ bread shop. That’s going to be a really nice smell to come home to.


Bread Sticks

I think I just wanted an excuse to turn on the oven today. I am having a hard time reacclimatizing. Maybe in twenty years time I’ll be one of those bleached blonde leather bags sitting on the Esplanade in Cairns sipping shandies. That conflicts a little with my plan to be a velvet clad cat lady, but I’m sure I can work something out.

I’m having a hard time getting something filling in my kids’ lunch boxes. They’ve all gone off sandwiches recently, the Horror was never into them at all. The Moose has access to a microwave at school, so he sometimes takes pasta. I’m sure they’d all like to eat just cakes and biscuits, but we’re not having that. Moderation in all things. I thought I’d give breadsticks a go.

The recipe is taken from a very learned tome called the Cook’s Book, and has detailed instructions on many complicated recipes you wouldn’t make in a pink fit. It has an excellent bread chapter, so I went from there. This is half the recipe they give, I wanted to make sure they’d get eaten before I went overboard.

Dissolve 5 grams of fresh yeast in 180 grams of water. I have one of those scales that you sit your bowl on and zero after putting in each ingredient, it’s revolutionized my cooking. My hairdresser made me buy it, that man has far to much influence on my behaviour. I get fresh yeast from my local IGA in little cubes, you might have to ask around at the deli’s in your area. Or you could use dried yeast, I’m pretty sure it converts to half a teaspoon.

Add 250 grams of flour. Mix it into a fairly wet dough with your hands, then leave it for about ten minutes. When you come back, sprinkle some salt over it, add a glug of olive oil and knead it a bit. Because I’m not making a soft, fluffy loaf of bread, I added another handful of flour to make a stiffer dough. Knead it until it’s smooth. The instructions then said to roll it out to one cm thickness, but I found it soft enough to spread it out with my hands onto a floured bread board. They also add that this is where you get finicky with a ruler and a sharp knife to get nice even sticks.


I’m actually going for lunchbox size and I favour the rustica look, which translates as frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn how they look, so that’s what my cutouts looked like. You can now roll each stick to get the traditional shape, or just lift each rectangle onto a biscuit tray that has been lined with baking paper and sprinkled with cornmeal. You then leave them to rise for the time it takes to rescue the washing from a sudden rain shower and pay a conductor and a rehearsal pianist for a month of work. Bear in mind that I also had to calculate superannuation. Spray them with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt. If you do it the other way around you just blow the salt onto the splashback. Put them in a 180 degree oven for about thirty minutes, but keep an eye on them. I like them fairly brown for extra crunch, you may like to leave them in for less time for a more bready result.

I do like the result, they’re like very miniature loaves of bread. I think if I’d made them a bit thinner they’d be crunchy all the way through, but this lot has a chewy centre. They’d be really good for dips, they don’t shatter.

I put the apple in there so you could see the size, not to be artsy fartsy. But will they pass the ultimate kid test? And can I be bothered making them regularly if they do? It’s unlikely, I have a very short attention span.

In the beginning was the Breadmaker

At some point in every housewife’s life she gets the urge to make her own bread. This sets her off on a lifetime’s journey in quest of the perfect loaf which I shall occasionally chronicle here. My journey began with a bread maker.

We may have got it as a wedding present, I can’t remember, but at some point early in our married life we acquired a bread maker. It’s a pretty simple machine. There’s a rectangular bucket at the bottom of which is a paddle that does all the hard work. You fill this up with the ingredients, insert the bucket into the machine, set it going and in the morning you have hot fresh bread. The very first morning the hot fresh bread slides easily out of the bucket and off the paddle, but never again.

There are many problems with making bread this way. I never like the shape of the loaf, the cross section was too large, the crust was too chewy. The loaf in itself was OK, especially if you’d added all the ingredients. I used to put it on last thing at night, and because it only had very few ingredients I’d do it from memory which meant that we’d sometimes end up with a bucket of well mixed ingredients that hadn’t turned into bread. You had to make sure that the paddle was inserted correctly and the bucket was locked into the machine, otherwise sludge would ensue. The machine was quite noisy, so I had it on the back verandah, not a desirable location first thing in the morning in the winter months.

What finally made me give it up was the paddle. It was always firmly embedded in the end of the bread. So you’d eat your way to the end of the loaf, then push the paddle out and wash it for the next loaf. Or alternatively, get to the end of the loaf and throw it in the bin. If this happened on bin night, it meant a trip to the creepy appliance shop up the road which was always inexplicably stacked to the roof with toasters. How could anyone hope to sell that many toasters? But they were always happy to get me in a new bread maker paddle.

The last time this happened I gave up. It was time for me to start making my own bread by hand, the next step on the Bread Journey. Anyone who makes bread ends up turning it into a journey, try it yourself and see if you can stop with the first method you try. What prompted me to dig up this story from the vault is something that the dogs dug out of the compost bin today while searching for a rat.

The last of the bread maker paddles. Another excellent reason to compost.