So, here’s the thing guys. I vacuumed my apartment twice in seven days this past week.
That’s approximately…the equivalent of pigs flying.
Or of hell freezing over.
Or of me ever eating animal flesh again.
Or of one of my experiments ever working out in any predictable way.
I think you see where I’m going with this.
To put this in even more perspective, The.Boy. didn’t even know that I owned a vacuum until my mother threatened suggested that she come over last Saturday and I was all OMG-I-LIVE-LIKE-A-HEATHEN, running around putting things in their right places, making sure I had toilet paper, etc.
Suffice it to say…he has never seen this happen before and was in a bit of shock, primarily at the idea that I even know how to use cleaning supplies at all whatsoever. One of us is the tidy person in this relationship and I have pretty much no qualms about telling you that it is not me.
Paint chips and pieces of the walls in my kitchen. All over my floor. Surprise.
Because, of course, none of the housing/maintenance people in my building bother to tell you that they’re going to enter your apartment in between the hours of 6:15pm and 8:30pm to turn the space in which you live into a DISASTER ZONE.
I understand that they’re trying to prevent mold. I really do. But I still have to live in my apartment while they do (unless, of course, they want to offer me and the.boy. couples housing which would make my life so.much.easier and if any of them are reading this, consider it a HINT), and sometimes I think they forget that. And didn’t their mommas ever teach them to clean up their own messes?
Tsk. Major tsk.
The bright side of all this is that it made me realize that when your kitchen is approximately the size of a pea, it really doesn’t take that long to vacuum it so it’s not actually as onerous as I imagined it to be.
Same goes for bread baking.
When I first dove into the world of instant active yeast about three years ago, it was primarily in the form of 5-minutes-a-day no-knead dough. Easy, delicious, and served it’s purpose well.
But it had it’s limitations. You can’t really get different textures with the dough because it’s pretty much the same recipe over and over but with different flavors added in.
So I had my brother buy me The Bread Baker’s Apprentice a few years back so I could expand my repertoire. And then promptly never opened it again. Or, I probably did open it, saw that most of the recipes took two days and decided that it was “too hard”. Never mind that the steps on the first day consist entirely of just mixing together flour, salt, water, and yeast and letting it sit overnight in the fridge.
Which takes less than five minutes.
I really wonder what is wrong with my brain sometimes.
Moral of the day: we should try doing the things we think are “too hard” more often. Because probably…they are much easier than we’ve built them up to be in our minds.
And also – make this bread. It’s awesome. The perfect chewy texture and oh so flavorful, so good that it tastes like it’s straight out of a bakery kind of awesome.
And then, toast it and top it with some sauteed greens and creamy delicious garlicky cranberry/borlotti beans. You won’t regret it.
PPS – There’s a super cool event going on at Whole Foods tomorrow that I want to tell you guys about! The Whole Foods Market on the upper west side has recently expanded their wine store! The store will be adding 900 new wines to its shelves, including more local, eco-friendly, and kosher bottles. In addition, it will now offer same-day delivery to anywhere in Manhattan. It will continue to offer case discounts, with 10% off a half case and 20% off a full case. And to celebrate they are having a FREE wine tasting tomorrow from 5pm-8pm. Attendees will be able to hang out with the store’s culinary specialist and taste some of her dishes from around the world as well as some wines to go with them! I can’t think of any better way to spend a Thursday night.
One year ago…Quinoa Chowder with Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Feta, and Scallions
Three years ago…Apple Strudel Bread
Pain de Campagne (Country Bread)
Makes 3 loaves of various shapes or numerous rolls, adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
For the pate fermentee:
- 1 1/8 cups (5 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/8 cups (5 oz) bread flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 3/4 cup to 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp water, at room temperature
For the pain de campagne:
- 1 recipe pate fermentee
- 1 3/4 cups (8 oz) bread flour
- 1/3 cup (1.5 oz) whole wheat flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 3/4 cup water, lukewarm (90-100F)
- semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
For the pate fermentee
- Stir together the flours salt and yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer). Add 3/4 cup of the water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low speed for 1 minute).
- Knead dough for 4-6 minutes by hand on a floured surface or on medium speed with the dough hook for 4 minutes. The dough should be soft and pliable but not sticky.
- Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it so that it is coated with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temp for 1 hour, or until it is about 1 1/2 times its original size.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it to degas it, and return it to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
For the pain de campagne
- Remove the pate fermentee from the fridge 1 hour before making the dough. Cut it into 10 small pieces. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.
- Stir together the flours, salt, yeast and pate fermentee in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water, mixing until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball. The dough should be soft and pliable.
- Knead the dough on medium speed with the dough hook for 6 minutes (or 8-10 minutes by hand). Sprinkle in bread flour if needed if it is too sticky. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Ferment at room temp for about 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
- Sprinkle a bit of flour on the counter and gently remove the dough from the bowl so that you degas it as little as possible. Divide the dough into 3 or more pieces. Shape the dough depending on what you desire, or turn it into rolls. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Sprinkle with semolina flour or cornmeal and transfer the dough to the pans. Mist it with cooking spray and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let it proof for 1 hour, or until the pieces are about 1 1/2 times their original size.
- Heat the oven to 500 with a large baking pan on the top rack and a baking stone, if using, in it while it is heating.
- Transfer dough to the baking stone or leave it on the sheet pan and put into the oven. Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan on the top rack and close the door. After 30 seconds, spray the oven walls with water and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals. After the final spray, lower the oven to 450 and bake for 10 minutes. Check the loaves and rotate them 180 degrees, if necessary. Continue to bake for 10-15 minutes more. The bread should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom when it is done.
- Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 40 minutes before serving.
Braised Mixed Greens and Garlicky Beans on Toast
Serves 4-5, adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, slivered
- 1 lb greens (I used 1 bunch swiss chard and 1 bunch kale), greens removed from their stems and chopped
- handful of sorrel, chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups cooked beans (I used borlotti beans)
- 4-5 slices country bread
- shaved parmesan cheese
- Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Once the onion starts to soften, after 3-4 minutes, add the garlic. Cook for one minute more, then add the greens and herbs. Season with salt.
- As the greens cook turn, keep rotating them so that they each have an equal amount of time at the bottom of the pot. Once they’ve all collapsed, at 1/2 cup water or bean broth. Lower the heat and cook, partially cooked, until tender. How long this will take depends on the greens that were used.
- When the greens are done, add the beans to heat them through. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Toast the bread. Spoon the greens and beans onto the bread. Garnish with the parmesan cheese.