After days of battling grocery crazed mobs we were finally home, as ready as possible for whatever was about to hit us. It was Tuesday afternoon when the lights first flickered and shortly after, a booming explosion erupted from about a block away and we were in the dark. It was the fist time our home had been quiet in a while, which was a bit unsettling at first. Void of our usual beeping electronic devices we huddled together with flashlights and limited battery power as it became dark. The rain poured endlessly. The wind began to pick up and roared through the valley below our home, shaking the glass in the windows that night, which is admittedly not conducive to sleep. Regularly waking to what I’m convinced was a flock of dragons flying above our home, I finally gave up on sleep and waited for the light to appear again.
It was morning and we were able to find some board games and more candles and flashlights. I spent most of that day making candles from kitchen twine, paper clips and cooking oils placed upon large platters surrounded by water so we could see the game we were playing, which I don’t recommend to anyone unless they know what they’re doing since it’s such a fire risk. Mostly, this task was just to keep busy since there wasn’t much to do. I also turned the flashlights into makeshift lanterns, bouncing them off of mirrors and hanging them from the curtains. We were also fortunate that the gas fireplace was still functioning and safe, which added a lot of comfort to our surroundings. We had music, pizza, entertainment, fire, water and each other. The wind had settled and we were finally shifting into a zone of familial comfort despite our newly adopted powerless lifestyle. I grilled (that was an adventure) outside in the icy rain; which by the way, I only recommend if you have multiple pairs of shoes and clean dry socks due to extensive amounts of mud. Yuck. Everyone was perfectly fine, healthy, happy and even started to calm down and have a little fun.
We were in the middle of monopoly, completely unaware of what time or day it was when the lights popped back on. We burst into spontaneous celebration and immediately contacted everyone to tell them we were ok and find out how they were as well. Our house is now relatively back to normal and open to friends and relatives in need of power. The problem is that most of them can’t make it here due to the gas shortage. Our regular grocery store finally has power, but still doesn’t have regular items like eggs and milk, but does have copious amounts of bread baking supplies and I had some cream that I stashed on ice that I could churn into butter and buttermilk. Yes, I know it’s slightly nuts. But it soothes me, so let’s just do it. I’m ok with it.
It’s just a simple sourdough bread recipe that I tried and liked. I like baking the bread in a very hot preheated dutch oven since I’ve always had the best results with that method (since it traps the steam and gives it extra height and more air pockets). However, this recipe called for something a bit different and I figured I’d give it a try. The results were delicious, and the recipe remains unaltered and highly approved. The only part that I experimented with was that I used about four ice cubes instead of the half cup of water (for moisture in the oven) since I find they give off more steam than just water. Steam in the oven, as I’ve discussed many times before, is the key to great homemade bread. Steam allows bread to not form a crust too early in the baking process, which can inhibit the bread’s ability to rise while in the oven baking. If the crust forms too early, it traps the bread in a coating and will never have the same results as bakery bread.
This bread has delicious flavor, even without toppings. The fermentation process means more tang and more complexity of flavor than other bread recipes. It’s a simple and delicious way to remember that only a few ingredients can come together and work beautifully over time with just a little effort. This recipe creates a basic and simply delicious hearty necessity while weathering any storm. I hope you are safe out there, everyone. It’s time for me to get back to work getting our area up and running again.
OH! and p.s.
Happy belated Halloween from my little T-Rex and Batman! It seems I have more photos of the back of their costumes than the front. I blame the momentary sugar high on both ends.
by Alton Brown, Bon Appetit | October 2004.
- 1 cup warm filtered or spring water (105°F to 115°F)
- 3/4 cup Proto-Dough (recipe below)
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 3 1/3 cups (or more) bread flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Mix first 4 ingredients in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Add 2 cups flour; stir to blend. Cover bowl with kitchen towel. Let rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Using dough hook, mix in 1 1/3 cups flour and salt at lowest setting. Increase speed slightly; knead dough 5 minutes, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough sticks to sides of bowl. Let dough rest 15 minutes. Knead on low 5 minutes. Scrape dough from hook into bowl. Remove bowl from stand. Coat rubber spatula with nonstick spray. Slide spatula under and around dough, coating dough lightly. Cover bowl with kitchen towel. Let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and fold over on itself several times to flatten. Divide in half. Shape each half into a round. Make slashes down each loaf.
Sprinkle large rimmed baking sheet with cornmeal. Space loaves on sheet 3 inches apart. Dust tops with flour. Cover with plastic; let rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Place 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan on bottom of oven. Position rack at lowest level of oven; preheat to 500°F. Place bread in oven. Quickly pour 1/2 cup water into metal pan ( I used five ice cubes and covered the glass oven door with a pot holder while dropping them into the pan); close oven door. Bake 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water to pan. Quickly close door; reduce oven temperature to 425°F. Bake loaves until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: if using ice cubes instead of water, cover the glass door of your oven first before tossing the ice cubes into the pan. If ice hits hot glass, it will crack. I find ice cubes allow for a bit more steam than water.
- 1 2/3 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 500-mg vitamin C pill (not chewable), crushed
- 2 cups warm filtered or spring water (105°F to 115°F)
Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Place 2 cups warm water in large clean sealable container. Add dry ingredients; whisk vigorously to combine. Cover container with lid slightly ajar; let stand in warm draft-free area 24 hours.
Alton Brown’s tips for using proto-dough: Afer 24 hours, you can use the proto-dough in a recipe. Or you can develop with flavor by adding a cup each of warm water and bread flour, letting it stand, uncovered, at room temperature until foamy (about 2 hours) and stashing it, covered, in the fridge for at least 3 weeks. An alcohol-rich liquid will rise to the surface every few days; just whisk it back in. “Feed” the proto-dough every time you take some to use in a recipe. For every cup taken add a cup each of water and bread flour, let foam, and return to the fridge. Proto-dough can last for years, as long as you keep taking and feeding. To use proto-dough in a regular yeast recipe, replace the dry yeast and every cup of liquid (including dissolving liquid) with 1/2 cup of proto-dough, 5 ounces liquid, and 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast.