Post # 265 Flour Power

June 23, 2014 at 12:55 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 265 Flour Power

I’ve written about flour before, but I had a day this weekend that was all about flour.

First, though, I need to let you know what happened last week.  I had a family crisis which needed my presence on the other side of the state.  I wasn’t able to take anything but my tablet computer with me and although the hotel promised internet connection, it didn’t happen.  Once we returned home, I was tired and there was still a lot of work at home to do.  So I concentrated on that rather than on the blog.  In the upcoming weeks, there may be times when I have to run across the state for a day or two and the blog may suffer for it.  I’ll apologize now and put it to rest.

So Saturday turned into baking day.  It wasn’t planned, but it’s what happened.  Everyone in the house had a sweet tooth that day.  Actually, it had started the day before.  So I decided to bake a spice cake and make cream cheese frosting for it.  Cakes are easy and everything went like clockwork.  I even got a little adventurous with the decorations.  Everyone was happy with it and here’s the result:

spice cake

I always use throwaway aluminum pans.  Easier clean up and portability.  I’m going to take it over to my sister’s house tonight.  So that was the first flour event.

After the cake was in the oven, I got to thinking that I could use the residual heat from the cake baking to proof a batch of sandwich rolls.  I pulled out the bread making machine, put in the ingredients (I’ve got this particular recipe memorized), set the machine on the “dough” setting, and let her rip.  The dough setting takes 90 minutes.  The cake came out about twenty minutes later and the oven was turned off.  By the time the dough was done, and I’d shaped 16 sandwich rolls, the oven was cooled more than enough to proof the rolls.

Proofing dough is just the process of letting it rise.  The machine had let it rise twice and punched it down once.  Once the rolls are shaped, they have to rise once again, or “proof” once again.  Serious bread makers have all kinds of tricks and devices for doing this.  When dough is rising, it should be at room temperature or just slightly warmer than that so the yeast will work.  It also needs to be out of any breezes to  ensure a stable temp.  Most of the time, leaving a bowl of dough on the kitchen counter covered with plastic wrap or a towel will be enough.  Most home cooks tend to stay away from bread because it can be finicky.  However, when you make a lot of bread, as I do, you try to standardize your process so  you can compare results, as well as modify recipes, processes, etc. and still have a reliable loaf of bread.  Some elements in bread making are entirely beyond your control.  Something as simple as the ambient humidity on a given day can have an impact on your bread.

Some bakers use what’s called a proofing box.  It can be as simple as a cardboard box that covers the bowl or pan or whatever the dough is in.  I thought about making one of these (they can be pretty intricate with insulation, etc.) when partner/spouse said “I’ve always just used the oven.”  Seemed the perfect solution to me.  It’s certainly large enough.  It’s airtight so no breezes to worry about or humidity or any other factors.  And you can heat it, turn it off, allow to cool, and the residual heat will be perfect to keep the yeast happy.

So knowing all this, I made sandwich rolls.  Pretty good ones, too.

buns

While all this was going on, I was also defrosting chicken for dinner.  I planned to bake the chicken with olive oil, butter, garlic, and Italian herbs.  Additionally, I was going to make fresh pesto with basil from the garden.  To make it extra special, I wanted to make fresh fettuccini.  My sister’s mother in law has a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the tilt head that was stored in our cabinets.  We also have one that’s quite a bit more powerful than hers.  She has several attachments as well, and one of those is a pasta maker.  So I got out the flour once again and made a batch of pasta dough, enough for the three of us to have with our baked chicken.

pasta dough

Normally, I’m used to putting the pasta through the spreader so it gets thinner and thinner and longer and longer.  Then I put it through the slicer to slice into noodles of various widths and thicknesses and lengths.  But this particular attachment you just put wads of dough into a hopper, feed it into a tube and it extrudes through the attachment to a replaceable head that shapes the pasta to what you want.  I chose the noodles head, started the machine, fed the dough into the hopper and feeder tube.  And watched the whole thing break into several pieces!  It had been so long since it had been used, the plastic pieces just fell apart under use.  Didn’t even get one noodle out of it.  Not one.

So we had baked chicken, stuffing, and steamed broccoli.  I put Italian seasoning over everything.  And it was all good.

As I sat at the computer later, I realized that I had taken one simple ingredient and made three different things (two if you don’t count the disaster) throughout the day and kept my family fed.  Flour can be intimidating sometimes, but I like the stuff.

A friend once said she moved a bag of flour in one of her kitchen cabinets and thought, “How the heck did THAT get here?”

Enjoy!

 

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