Friday, August 07, 2009
So I realized one morning that I had forgotten to buy bread. And well, I have flour, liquid and yeast, so why not make some to go with lunch. And my, why not spike it with the lovely fennel seed that Zoomie had given as a party favor at a food blogger's picnic some months ago? It's hard to give an exact recipe for this, as I have become more like my mother and have a bowl of flour and do some things quite by feel.
That being said, I took about 3 cups of flour plus later at the punch down of the dough and kneading for the final rise 1/2 to 1 cup more. I mix my flours in the bowl, so it had part organic whole wheat, amaranth, oat and unbleached wheat flours. Although I know the rapid rise yeast can be added directly to the dry ingredients, I still like to start it in a little water. So I added yeast and a little raw agave nectar for food and sweetness and added hot, not boiling water to about 1/3 cup, stirred and watched it foam. Then I added enough hot water to fill the cup and then add it to the flour in the bowl. Oh, and I added the fennel, seemed about 3 tablespoons, about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and about 2 tablespoons of dry milk powder to the flour before adding the liquid. I then mixed and punched and made it into a ball and covered it. I let it rise until about double the size.
At that point I poured some olive oil over the top maybe 2 tablespoons or a little more, and kneaded it in. I learned from my mother and brother (who was a master baker and taught baking in vocational schools) that the bread rises better if you don't put the oil in until after the first rising. I then put it on a floured board and kneaded and beat it up! When I could feel the gluten rise and a springy feeling, I knew it was ready to put on the baking stone, cover and let it rise again. When it doubled, see the photo above, I put it in a pre-heated oven at 400F for about 10 minutes, then finished it at 375F for another 20 when it looked done.
I didn't wait long enough before cutting, it cuts better when you let it cool even 5 minutes. It had a distinctive fennel taste and went well with the next item that I cooked up for lunch that day. It tasted even better knowing I was using Zoomie's homegrown fennel. Fennel is a wonderful spice, and my friend Mike Ahmadi wrote a wonderful post about home grown herbs, including information about using fennel last week.
What goes better with hot bread than hot soup? Cream of Celery soup. Yes, I had LOTS of organic celery in my refrigerator. The celery that has been delivered from my CSA has been longer, maybe by a third, than what you typically can buy in the store. So again, lots of celery had I. I pulled the strings off the ribs, chopped being sure to include the flavorful leaves. My mother told me that using the celery leaves is a chef's secret! I added some organic chicken broth (pure vegetarians will want to use some vegetable broth). Then I added a cut up potato for the thickener. Once the potato was tender, I poured the entire bubbling, delicious smelling brew into my Vita-Mix and made short work of blending. I added a bit of salt, and as I blended I poured in what goat milk I had left in the carton - 3/4 to 1 cups worth by eyeballing. I returned it to the pot to heat it after adding the cold milk.
Then I ladled it into bowls and served it with the fennel bread for lunch. Dad asked me why we even buy bread - can't you (Anna) just bake it up fresh every day? Nice thing about being older, you forget that one must actually go to work! But actually, fitting it into your schedule with a little planning isn't as difficult as it may seem.
And due to the healthy characteristics of celery, I have decided to make this a post to contribute to this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, organized by Haalo and hosted this week by Dhanggit of Dhanggit's Kitchen.
Besides being a source of vitamin C, and even a more significant source of vitamin K, celery includes a couple of other beneficial substances. These are phthalides, which may help lower cholesterol, and coumarins, that may be useful in cancer prevention. The World's Healthiest Foods has a great write up of celery's many health benefits and nutritive qualities.