Thursday, January 29, 2015

But Baby, it's Cold Outside - Weekly Bread

Here's the thing about food writing that gets to me most, first off, it's not the food. I love food. I have since before I could talk. The joke was that my first word was, in fact, a sentence: 'Mother, would you please pass the chicken?' 
The passion has far from abated.

Is it the writing, perhaps the regular blog schedule? Eh, the devil-may-care approach to schedules has suited me well enough- and I'll write, how I write, when I want to write.
Simply put, it's food photography. Once the dish is done, I want to eat it. I don't want to fuss with it, make it pretty, or god forbid- style it. There was a time that I would've said, to hell with the minutia, except that I've been known to fuss over pixels in a portrait for hours. I know where passion is involved, the devil and I hold hands while attending the details. That's two devil references, just in case you're counting.
Look, I'm not going to rant, I am, however, going to fight back a little bit. In my absentee year and some change, I haven't stopped cooking. I certainly haven't stopped baking. I'm a conceptual portraiture photographer that's also going to learn how to take pictures of food that aren't stiflingly claustrophobic. With any luck, it'll get a bit surreal. If I slap a bamboo plant next to a dish and call it a day, you have permission to smack me upside the head. I hit back though.

That said: You may recognize this kitchen towel and these somewhat claustrophobic compositions. The lighting's a little better though.
Shall we begin?

I got a bread machine because a friend inspired/seduced me by putting ingredients into a little metal box, then walking away for a few hours and being rewarded with fluffy, steaming bread. Also, because once it's no longer summer, the kitchen thermostat is cemented at 52° F, and only that 'warm' so the pipes won't freeze. It is an inhospitable tundra for same day bread making.
Personally, I think bread machines are wonderful. If you're a purist, well you should know by now that you're reading the wrong damn blog.

I modded this recipe from King Arthur, because they're nothing if not a legit baking source. 

Oatmeal Pecan Bread (2 LB loaf- go big)

1 cup water (Plus up to a half cup during the mix cycle, added a tablespoon at a time)
1/3 cup coconut milk
4 Tblsp coconut oil (mine was solid bc again, 52°)
2 Tbslp brown sugar
2 Tblsp maple syrup
1 cup rolled oats - plus 1/2 cup rolled oats ground into a flour (food processor, blender, spice mill- whatever medieval oat torture device floats your boat)
2.5 cups bread flour
2.5 tsp active dry yeast (I use Red Star to no bad end)
1.5 tsp salt
A fist full of Pecans, reserve for after the kneading cycle

Here's where you add the ingredients into your bread machine in an oddly specific order (Liquids, sugar, flour, yeast that mustn't touch the water for some reason) I don't know if I buy it, but I do it because it's all I know. I'm not crazy about not letting the yeast come in contact with the water first- I do think that part's BS.

Now even though I said you can slap the ingredients in there and walk away, you can't. Everybody lies. Watch this puppy mix. If it starts to look sick and sad, get in there and coach it along like it was your own personal Balboa. Sprinkle in some water if it's too dry, if you get too enthusiastic with that, dust in a bit more flour. Get your hands in there mix it if it's being pathetic, make amusing sounds as you avoid the mixing paddle. Call me, we can compare and contrast sounds for best results. You'll know it's ready when it's pulled around the baking pan in a taut, round....ball. Your machine may have an alert for when the strenuous kneading cycle is done, and you can add mix-ins. Mine, for instance, beeps just loud enough to scare you from any damned part of the house you're in, and for long enough to make you grumble more than Yosemite Sam (tm). That's where you add your pecans, by the way.

I baked this- hah, I can't say I baked this - I pushed some buttons for 'white loaf', 2lb, and 'light crust'. Then I buggered off for about 3 or 4 hours to play Super Mario 3 and be really critical of how I used to be awesome at this and there's clearly something wrong with this remote.

The scent wafting from my frigid kitchen soon reminded me of the product of my 'efforts' 

Told you that kitchen towel would be familiar. How're the oats on the side? That doin' it for ya?

Here, check out the crust:

Clearly, I have to re-bake the birthday chocolate bread recipe from a couple weeks ago and do some surrealist antics with the photos, because I'm off to a cracking start here.