Nathan’s home with me today, with a fever and feeling tired. I went to check in with him after posting last night and he was sound asleep, at 6:50 p.m. Had fallen asleep doing his homework! Definitely not usual 9-year-old-boy behavior. So today he’s lyin’ low, watching a little TV, and finishing up the homework he didn’t finish last night. I can tell he’s probably going to be OK, because he requested a home-made pizza for lunch (!). And I’m willing to make it for him because he hasn’t eaten anything for 24 hours. And I can make it pretty healthy when I do it myself (throw a little whole-wheat flour into the crust, keep the sodium low in the tomato sauce, incorporate some fresh garlic, go easy on the cheese). Hopefully the pizza, some rest, and a little TLC will get him back on his feet.
For tonight, I’ll be keeping things simple. Both kids here for dinner, I’m thinking crispy roasted chicken, rice, and a quick tomato gratin. As you can tell, we eat alot of chicken & rice in this house! Variations on a theme, it’s all just variations on a theme…ha.
Well, made the pizza for Nathan, and he loved it. He’s definitely on the mend. Since I’d messed up the mixer anyhow, I decided to bake some bread for tonight. At first I was thinking challah (or Rockin’ Challah as Susie the Metal Jewtheran – Jewish Lutheran – was calling it today; just to use that cool name, I’ll post the recipe, below) but I’m a bit low on eggs so just made a nice white loaf instead. I may end up revising the dinner menu, hmmm… As in, I think I’ll skip the rice. And since I haven’t bought chicken yet, I could skip that too. Soup would be nice with the fresh bread. Too bad no one would eat chili but me, that sounds great… Really the only soup that the whole family will eat is chicken noodle, so I guess that’s what I’ll shoot for. Fresh bread and chicken noodle soup! With a salad. That’s pretty far from chicken & rice with tomato gratin, but so the day goes!
The soup is delicious, but that bread, hmmm…it’s looking a little odd in the oven. I bake bread all the time, I’m not sure what I blew, perhaps not quite enough yeast. That’s how it looks anyhow. And it looks hilarious! OK, now it’s out of the oven, and I sliced the end off, and it tastes yummy, so I guess we’ll go with it. Nice texture, chewy and soft interior, good flavor, didn’t develop much of a crust though (as you can see) – nice top! Oh well! (If it had tasted like crap I would have baked popovers, which I almost love more than fresh yeast bread anyhow, thus my calm attitude.) Put a little Hope Creamery butter on the table, everyone will think it’s fabulous (yes, I bought it again, damn I wish I didn’t love it so much…). So, on to a salad, and dinner will be on the table. I have Caesar dressing from last night, and both kids LOVE Caesar, so I know they’ll eat their veggies, at least tonight.
Makes 1 large loaf (can be cut in half to make one smaller loaf, or baked as two smaller loaves)
This makes a delicious loaf of bread, and is best the day you bake it. Makes fabulous toast the day after.
4 c. bread flour (unbleached and unbromated)
1 Tbsp. salt
1½ Tbsp. yeast
1 c. warm water (not hot, or it will kill the yeast)
¼ c. granulated sugar
¼ c. oil
3 room temperature eggs, lightly beaten
soft butter (or extra oil) for kneading
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
Coarse salt (optional)
This is about a 2-hour process, from start to finish.
Put flour and salt in the bowl of a mixer, fitted with a dough hook. In a small bowl, stir yeast into warm water. Whisk in sugar and oil, then eggs. With mixer running on low, slowly pour liquid into the flour/salt mixture. When all the liquid is incorporated, the dough should be somewhat sticky (add more water or flour if necessary to achieve the right consistency, but don’t create an overly dry dough, or the bread will be dry). Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and silky. Coat your hands and a cutting board with soft butter (or, if you don’t want to use dairy, then oil). Transfer dough to the cutting board and knead (it’s sticky at first, less so as you knead), using more butter on your hands and/or board as necessary, until dough is very smooth and springy, 5-10 minutes. Oil a large bowl and add dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rise, until doubled in size, 30-45 minutes.
Have an ungreased baking sheet ready. Punch dough down and turn out again on the cutting board. Shape loosely into a cylinder and cut into three equal pieces. Using your hands, stretch and roll each section into a 15-inch long cylinder, laying them side-by-side on the baking sheet. To begin braiding, on one end, pinch the three rolls together and tuck under a bit. Braid loosely and evenly (you can undo it and start again if you mess up) and when you come to the end, pinch the ends together and tuck under, so the braid matches on both ends. Straighten the braid. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (spray a little non-stick cooking spray on the plastic, if you like) and let rise again for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle lightly with coarse salt, and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until challah is golden brown.