I rarely curse. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of people who have ever heard me do so, with fingers left over. However, there are circumstances, usually involving some combination of electronics, clumsiness, and solitude, where I find uttering an expletive or two the most appropriate and satisfying response. Apparently, having impossibly sticky, gloppy dough all over your hands and the counter is one such occasion. I wish I could have captured the stubborn mess and the look of horror on my face as I tried to pull, pry, scrape, flour and knead the dough into submission — but, alas, my hands were a mite too sticky to handle a camera.
Almost an hour and copious amounts of flour later, I did eventually manage to form a respectable ball of dough. I can’t really blame the recipe, from Beth’s Basic Bread Book, since I realize now that I strayed several times from the original recipe, despite my best attempts to follow it precisely. Thankfully, it still turned out wonderfully! I would make it again in a heartbeat. The intoxicating smell wafting from the oven alone made all the trials and tribulations of the morning worth it. It baked beautifully both in a loaf pan and as a free-form loaf, moist and delightfully textured, and absolutely delicious. Quite possibly the best yet! When he came home, my brother the chef even asked whether I had made it or if it came from the bakery, which I took as deepest praise. (He then said the recipe must have been idiot-proof, which I suppose is also true.) I recommend using maple syrup if you have it, as I think it contributed significantly to the rich, complex flavor.
Perfect alongside butternut squash & apple soup and an improvised kale salad with braised tofu to round out the meal. Don’t know how massaged kale salads have eluded this blog until now. I can’t get enough of them! Yum.
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar, honey, or maple syrup
1 1/2 cup warm buttermilk (I only had 3/4 cup, so replaced the rest with warm water, worked fine)
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (I used maple – yum!)
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup cornmeal (fine or medium grind)
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 – 4 cups unbleached white flour
A few tablespoons oil
Dissolve yeast in water with a teaspoon of sweetener and set aside to proof. Meanwhile, combine cornmeal, whole wheat flour, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in buttermilk and remaining sweetener to form a smooth batter. Stir in white flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough forms pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. (I recommend working in a bit more flour if in doubt.)
Scrape onto a floured surface and knead, adding flour as necessary. Dough should be soft and slightly elastic, but will be a somewhat coarse and tacky. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl, flipping to coat, and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and deflate. Grease two loaf pans or grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Divide dough in half. Form into a rectangle and press into the loaf pans, or form into round or oval loaves and place on the baking sheet, at least 4 inches apart.
Brush the tops of the loaves with 1 tablespoon oil and let rise until double in bulk, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375ºF. Right before baking, slash and place in oven for 40-45 minutes, until browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove immediately from pan, brush tops again with oil, and leave to cool on rack. Serve while still slightly warm if desired. Truly incredible bread.
Massaged Kale Salad
1 bunch kale, stems removed
A generous drizzle (1 tablespoon or so) olive oil
Juice from one lemon (vinegar can also work well)
Cubes of fried or braised tofu (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional)
Chop the kale into thin strips. Combine in a bowl with oil, lemon juice, and salt and massage with your hands for a few minutes until softened. Mix in tofu, or whatever else your heart desires (feta, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, apples, edible flowers, tomatoes, fried tempeh, or grated beets are some of my favorites). Garnish with sesame seeds if desired. Quick, simple, and sweet as candy!
Note: An easy and delicious way to prepare tofu is to heat a mix of oil (peanut oil works best) and a few splashes of soy sauce in the bottom of a fry pan, then add cubes of tofu and let crisp, stirring occasionally. The soy sauce will carmelize and sear the tofu, resulting in a delicious glaze. For tonight’s meal, I used “braised tofu” from Hodo Soy, a fantastic local tofu producer. Wasn’t terribly impressed with the flavor, so I think next time I will braise them myself.