Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Not Kneaded

It has turned winter here in Central Texas again - at least for a few days - which has me appreciating another chance to prepare cold weather food. I like the way many of my favorite cold weather dishes - often stews or casseroles - spend a certain amount of time in the oven or over a burner, warming the kitchen, filling the house with aromas while I turn my attentions to other things assured of a wonderful reward when mealtime finally arrives.

I have two such dishes planned for the next run of 4 or so dinners. A wonderfully simple Fababa del Duero recipe from Whole Foods, which is a hearty white bean and sausage stew. Then, for the season and series finale of our favorite HBO show, "The Wire", a Boeuf Borguignon recipe from the folks at Serious Eats.

Watching whatever HBO series is on Sunday night and sharing dinner with whoever in my family is available to join us has become a bit of a tradition over here. It is not quite so Norman Rockwell as sitting around a table laden with home cooked goodness for a meal with no TV involved, but gathering to watch the show together, and the commentary we share afterwards, is about as close as we often get. We are who we are.....

Anyhoo, these wonderful stewy type recipes are generally followed by a comment along the lines of "Serve this with a full-bodied wine, thick slices of good bread, and a simple green salad". All of which had me thinking about...bread.

We are fortunate these days to have a ready supply of a variety of breads from nearly every grocery store, not to mention the bread specialty stores that dot our area. That said, there is nothing quite as satisfying to me, as having bread to share that I have made myself.

Just because bread is a daily staple and readily available doesn't mean it is all that easy to make. Good bread can be a trick to pull off considering the many hazards faced by intrepid home bakers. Distractions, fussy ovens, imprecise measuring, humidity and fluctuating room temperatures can all take their toll on a loaf of bread. Then there is the time it takes to knead the bread, let it rise, and then do it all again before even beginning the baking process. Who has that kind of time? The family chef speculated to me the other day that the difficulties of reliably producing good bread at home are behind the vast array of bread machines sold in the US. (I don't have current numbers but recall in the late 90's they were selling some 3 1/2 million bread machines annually!)Which is why I really like this simple recipe for No Knead Wheat Bread. It is fast, easy and reliable, and doesn't need any machinery other than you and your oven. I wouldn't call this a "show off" bread, but it toasts well, is delicious with peanut butter, and the recipe makes two loaves so you can have one to eat, and one to share. Try this and see for yourself. You don't need a bread machine, or time to knead and let loaves rise, to have good home baked bread.


3 cups warm water, 105-115 degrees F
2 packages active dry yeast
1 tablespoon molasses or honey
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoons salt

Combine warm water, yeast and molasses or honey. Stir to dissolve yeast. (Tip: coat the bowl of your measuring spoon lightly with no-stick spray oil for easy release of sticky liquids like honey or molasses. You get every drop with no fuss.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt. Pour liquid into dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Dough will be quite wet.

Divide dough equally into two greased 8 1/2 b7 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 inch loaf pans.

Let dough stand in a warm place for about 15 minutes or until mixture has partially risen.Bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes or until done. Bottom of loaf will sound hollow when tapped.

Turn loaves onto a rack to cool (no need to let cool in pan first - these loaves come easily out of the pan right out of the oven.)

Good served with peanut butter or slices of cheese. Excellent for sandwiches and toast.

For those of you concerned with calories? They suggest each loaf yields about twenty-two slices and each slice runs around 105 calories with 22 grams of carbohydrates. No fat, no cholesterol, 13 mg of calcium, 179 mg of sodium, and 4 g of protein.

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