Sunday, March 6, 2011

BAKING UP ANOTHER MEMORY

This weekend I was determined to stay home and get some things done around the house.  

OK, now that you're all done laughing, I'll admit I didn't really get much done.  At least not what I set out to do. But then there's nothing unusual in that.  A little laundry, a little house cleaning, a little car maintenance, a little shopping for next weeks meals....but I did manage to satisfy my baking urge by turning out a couple of loaves of raisin bread.

Looking through cookbooks is one of my favorite pastimes.  When watching a movie on TV, you'll ususally find me curled up in my chair with a cookbook or five on my lap.  Armed with a batch of sticky flags, I browse these books for ideas for my own table or just to live vicariously through other peoples food ideas. 

My collection of Marcia Adams cookbooks
One such cookbook that I've read many, many times was written by Marcia Adams.  Ms. Adams wrote 3 cookbooks about Amish cooking.  Her books were well researched, beautifully photographed and tell some wonderful stories about her subject matter.  Mostly, her recipes are down to earth and the sorts of foods I actually grew up eating.  Meat and potatoes, homemade breads, cookies and pies.  I love using her recipes when my parents come to stay with me as this is the type of food they like and will eat. 

Unfortunately, Ms. Adams is no loger alive, she passed few years ago after being diagnosed with a heart problem.  She wrote her cookbooks, some of which were made into PBS programs, in the 1980's and 90's.  She said "I have loved writing all my books, for they are more than just a collection of recipes since they are accompanied by researched history and personal narratives. I’ve learned so many new things and met so many interesting, great people that I would have missed had I not decided to be a food writer.”

I've been trying out some of her bread recipes recently with varying degrees of success.  Last week I tried out her Kentucky Cornmeal Bread as written in the book and I think this could use some tweaking before I'm ready to say it's one to be used again and again.  This weekend, however, I may have hit upon a keeper with her No-Knead Country Oat and Raisin Loaf.  With some whole grains in the form of oats and dark molasses for flavoring, this bread raised nicely, was easy to prepare and tastes very good toasted with cinnamon and sugar on top.  Although I use my KitchenAid to prepare all these doughs, if you have strong arms and a sturdy wooden spoon this can be done by hand.

NO-KNEAD COUNTRY OAT AND RAISIN LOAF

Biga (or starter)
  1 1/2 cups boiling water
  1 cup quick-cooking oats
  1/2 cup dark molasses
  1 cup raisins
  1/3 cup vegetable oil
  1 tablespoon salt


Prepare the Biga by combining all the ingredients into a large mixer bowl and mix well. (I put this in my kitchen aid work bowl and mix with a large woden spoon.)  Cool to lukewarm while preparing the remaining ingredients.

Dough
  2 packages active dry yeast
  1/2 cup lukewarm water
  2 eggs, slightly beaten
  1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  2 3/4 cups bread flour

In a small bowl, combine the yeast and water, mix to dissolve the yeast and set aside for 5-10 minutes until it foams.  Add the yeast and eggs to the biga and combine thoroughly.

Combine the flours together then gradually add to the yeast and oats mixture while stirring to combine.  I set my kitchen aid on low to do this - be careful with adding the flour, it can easily end up all over the kitchen!  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Prepare 2 pans by spraying with cooking spray.  I used one 8-inch round and 1 9x5-inch loaf pan.  Pull the dough out on a lightly floured counter and divide in half.  Lightly roll out one piece into a 7x14-inch rectangle (I used my hands for this, not a rolling pin).  Starting at one short edge, roll up tightly, jelly-roll fashion.  Turn the ends under and seal before placing seam side down in the loaf pan.  For the round loaf, lightly pat out into a square, pull the corners up into the center, turn the dough over and continue to tuck to the underside while smoothing the top of the dough, making a 6-inch round.  Place seam side down into the round pan.  Cover both loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the loaves for 50 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees.  Turn out of the pans immediately and cool completely on a wire rack.  To keep the top of the loaves soft, rub lightly with butter over the top.

I topped mine with a glaze made from 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1-2 teaspoons milk. 

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