12/17/2012

Dear Bread: Get In My Mouth!

After all the sadness of Friday, we tried hard to begin focusing on "small good things" Saturday morning, then packed in as much fun and family into this weekend as we possibly could.  It's a luxury I know the victims, friends, families, and residents of Newton do not get, a fact that is constantly in my thoughts - almost feverishly spurring me on to yet more family quality time.

Our small good things included Bill cock-a-doodle-doing for the first time since the dog attack, and Bert wandering into the outdoor area of their coop for the first time since the attack, too.  It also included National Hot Chocolate Day, which we made a point to celebrate more than once on Saturday.

We did the Indianapolis Christmas at the Zoo on Saturday night.  That was a very magical evening for the kids, who got to stay-up way past bedtime drinking hot chocolate, eating cookies, and looking at thousands of beautiful Christmas light displays amongst sleeping, or in some cases, not sleeping zoo animals.  We elected not to visit Santa this year, but could have that night if we wanted.

Then Sunday was our church's Christmas Cantata service.  Liam loved all the music a little too much, and although the people in the rows behind us laughed as he loudly clapped and sang during and after each piece, I took him into the narthex where he could be jovial and still hear without being disruptive.  :)

After that it was a birthday party with Brian's brother's family!  Dozens of little feet were in constant motion up and down the house, with shouts and giggles, and delicious cupcakes made by my sister-in-law added sugar-fuel to the fun-fire.  It was another fun late night.

The kids and I are snuggling this morning after a few late nights.  We've danced to The Wiggles and looked through all of our photo albums.  And I'm relishing some quiet time with them.

Alright, so that's what's been going on in our neck of the woods.  Now it's time to talk about FOOD.  Glorious, wonderful, food.  :)


A few weeks ago I found this recipe for a homemade baguette that claimed it could be made - start to finish - in one hour.  Say what? I was dubious to say the least, but decided to test it.  Was it, in fact, too good to be true?  Would the bread be even worse than supermarket french bread?  Would French people everywhere hate me for even considering their beautiful bread could be made in an hour?

So I tested it out.

And I was impressed!

And then I was really impressed!

And then I made just a few slight changes and was really really impressed! :)

And since then I've made it 5 times, using it for everything as a side for a good cup of soup, a delicious vehicle for a few good sandwiches, garlic bread for a side to pasta, and as the main component for some tasty french toast.  And each time I fall more in love with it until, now, when two baguettes come out of the oven the kids and I pounce on it as if it can't get into our mouths fast enough, leaving one and a half baguettes in the blink of an eye.  :)

One Hour French Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

1 1/2 C warm water - 115 degrees
1 1/2 T instant yeast
3 T sugar
1 t sea salt
3 1/4 C bread flour or AP flour if you don't have bread* (King Arthur recommended)
1/2 C butter

Heat the water in a microwavable measuring cup to 115 degrees and add the yeast and sugar, stirring it in slightly.  Let it set 5 minutes, or until it foams.  Pour it into the base of a stand mixer, add the sea salt and mix it together with the paddle attachment.  Add the flour and mix just until it comes together, then fit the dough hook into the mixer and knead for 5 minutes.

Divide the dough in two immediately, and on a lightly floured board roll each half into a rectangle, at leasst 8 x 12 - though you can go bigger or smaller.  A bigger rectangle will make a skinner baguette, a smaller rectangle will make a thicker baguette - almost like the width of an italian loaf one buys at your generic supermarket.

Place a piece of parchment or a silpat onto a large baking sheet.  Melt the 1/2 C of butter in a microwavable bowl.  Brush just a little bit of the butter onto the silpat.

Roll up your rectangle and pinch the ends off, making them slightly narrower than the middle (this will give you that baguette shape).  Set the baguettes onto the silpat.  Cover with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.  With a sharp knife, cut a 1 inch deep cranny into the middle of the bread down the length.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Bake the bread for 9 minutes, then rotate and dump ALL the butter onto the baking baguettes, being sure it drizzles all over.  Bake another 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, let cool just enough to cut a piece off.  Taste.  MMMMMMM. :)

Use delicious bread for the recipes below!

*NOTE* If you substitute AP flour for the bread flour, you will need to add more flour to get the right consistency, up to 1/2 C more (but start with less and work your way up).

Crockpot Italian Beef Sandwiches
My mom is responsible for this recipe, actually.  It's one she found somewhere (I'm not sure of the original source, so I apologize for not citing it).  When it made so much she couldn't possibly consume it, she gifted half of it to us, which I then divided into half, again, and froze.  We got two separate nights of these sandwiches, all out of that one original recipe.  SCORE!

The original calls for some packaged and processed ingredients I don't like using, but since I actually haven't yet made it "my way" I'm going to cite the original here, then list along-side the changes I will try when I make this next.  This will actually be a really good example that builds off of my posts The Case For Food and the Anti-Soup in the Crockpot post. :)

Crockpot Italian Beef Sammies
Yield: GOBS

Sandwiches:
1 baguette, sliced into 4 sandwiches and opened on one side
8 slices your white cheese of choice (we used deli white american - nothing fancy)
the italian beef (recipe below)

Original Recipe:
1 beef tip sirloin roast, cut in half
14 1/2 ounces beef broth
12 ounces beer
1 C water
1/4 C apple cider vinegar
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 envelope italian salad dressing mix
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 t dried basil

My Plan to Alter it:
1 beef tip sirloin roast, cut in half
1 recipe homemade zesty italian salad dressing (listed below, too)
12 ounces beer or 1/2 C marsala wine (tried the marsala - amazing!)
3/4 C beef stock
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t dried basil
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 t onion powder
sea salt and pepper

Zesty Italian Salad Dressing:
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1/3 C olive oil
1/3 C water
1 t lemon juice
1/4 C sugar
1 T red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 T minced onion
1 t minced fresh garlic
1 t ground oregano
pinch of paprika
sea salt and pepper

For the dressing: combine everything but the oil in a mixing bowl and with a hand whisk or immersion blender, blend in the oil until it thickens.  Alternatively, plop everything but the oil into a blender and pour in the oil with the blender running.

For the beef: pour all the liquid and seasoning ingredients into the crockpot and stir together.  Plop the meat in and cook on low for 8 hours, using the back of a spoon or some tongs to shred the meat.  Stir it into the liquid - all that is delicious.

For the sandwiches: Cut the bread into 4 equal sandwich portions, then open a slit on one side of each sandwich to stuff the fillings into.  Preheat the oven to 400 and let the bread bake, first closed, for 5 minutes, then open for 5 minutes.  This will crunch it up and make it ready to receive the liquidy meat.  Once the bread has crisped, top the meat on the bottom half, top with the cheese, and let it broil for a few minutes, until the cheese is super melty.  Serve with a salad and homemade chips or fries.  YUMMY!!!


Paris Lunchbox Sandwich
This sandwich hails from my restaurant, and was one of the most popular menu items.  It's still a favorite around our house for a simple, satisfying, delicious meal that makes a perfect "quick date night with cheap red wine" for Brian and I. :)

Paris Lunchbox Sandwich
Yield: 1 sandwich

1 sandwich-portioned piece of homemade french bread
6 slices of very good deli salami
4 to 6 slices of organic gala apple
your choice of either several slices of Triple Cream Brie (more expensive, but the original tasty way!)
OR a few slices of deli white american cheese (not the same, but still good and much more pocketbook friendly)

Crisp the bread in a 400 degree oven, first closed, then open it and toast both interior sides.  Top with salami, then apples, then the cheese and let bake open-faced for a few minutes before turning on the broiler to finish the job.  Serve with soup or salad, or eat it as is with no sides on your living room floor and your favorite cheap bottle of wine in front of the Christmas Tree and call it a date. ;)

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