Monday, March 24, 2008

New Bag and New Bread

I recently found I was powerless to resist the sale over at Lexie Barnes. Especially when I discovered the Mariposa Yoga Bag was available in my favorite discontinued pattern Dutch Treat. You can't beat it for $32, I say. I certainly wasn't expecting it to come in so handy so quickly. I used it to carry some laundry home to Jersey last weekend rather than packing a huge duffle bag.

So far I have yet to use it for toting my actual yoga mat, but it's pretty f'in sweet I must say. Here's a shot with the mat for scale. Plenty of room left for a towel and clothes or whatever. And I really like the pockets on the interior and on the ends.

This weekend I did a whole lot of cooking which was partly a shame because I spent way too much time indoors and partly delightful because I got some really excellent food for the rest of the week. I made a vegetable stock rather than buy cans after reading Ruhlman's panegyric for the real thing. I froze some of the stock, used about a third for Creamy Potato Leek Soup (we don't call it Vichyssoise or whatever in our house. We're Irish, damnit.) and reserved a quart for risotto the next day (I'm also half Italian though you wouldn't know it from the way my grandmother cooks. ugh.) I tried my hand at baking bread with bread flour rather than all-purpose. I can only say that what happened next can only be regarded as an Easter Miracle!

In our family we have a simply awe-inspiring collection of recipes (not from Grandma) passed down through the generations. We call it The Joy of Cooking. While my copy may not be as splattered as and lacks the split binding of Dad's copy, it is still well loved. But somehow I have never been able to master the bread making. Unless they're cakelike breads, they simply don't work out as planned. This past Saturday was no different.

I opted to try the Milk Bread base to make Cinnamon Raisin Bread thinking it'd make great Easter Sunday French Toast (Irish+Italian=mostly lapsed Catholic). I followed the recipe and all seemed to be progressing fine, although I was disappointed to not see enough description of the way the dough should look. I left the dough to rise (yes, I had used yeast) until doubled in bulk, and while it wasn't quite there, it looked close enough. I rolled the bread out and spread the cinnamon, sugar and raisins before rolling it up like a jelly roll (not that I've ever made one) and putting it into the oven to bake. 40 minutes later the apartment was filled with the aroma of warm cinnamon and sugar. I took the bread out to cool and left it overnight while visions of cinnamon raisin french toast danced in my head.

The next morning I tap the bottom to hear for that hollow sound The Joy of Cooking assures me I will hear when the bread is done. Nope. More like a dull thud. And the bread is hard as a rock. Damnit. I cut it open and sure enough, it's solid as a rock too. But did I give up? Nay! It was Easter Sunday and if Jebus rose, then sure as heck, my Cinnamon Bread could too.

I grabbed the Joy of Cooking and got back to work. I figured I may have used water that was too hot and killed the yeast the first time so I made it more lukewarm and allowed the yeast to dissolve a bit longer. I allowed the dough to rise for about 2 hours rather than 1 and sure enough, it doubled in bulk and felt a lot less like rubber. Then I got to the part in the instructions where I'm told that after rolling it up like a jelly roll, I need to let the bread rise for another hour. Whoops, missed that part the first time.

The second time was definitely a charm. While the bread rose, I took a walk (more about that next post) and finally got some fresh air. Once it was baked it was truly glorious, a veritable Easter Miracle! Don't believe me? Behold:

I had some for breakfast this morning and good gracious it's delicious. Would've made great Easter French Toast. *sigh* And here it is next to the rock (click for big because I'd prefer not to even think about how bad that first one turned out):

Quite a difference, eh? Happy Easter to one and all (if that's your cup of tea).