Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Storm Survival: Bake Some Bread (UPDATED with photos and two bad puns!)

Updated with my own photo of my street from Sunday (pre-blizzard-part-two)!  (Please note the height of the snowdrift in relation to the cross-walk push button.  That is not an optical illusion, internet.)

Being good Midwestern girls, the Sisters Fierce are well-prepared for snow storms.  Growing up, we lived two doors up the street from a Methodist church with a huge parking lot.  Any time it snowed, we spend countless hours with the Brothers Fierce and assorted neighborhood kids playing in the parking lot.  "Playing in the snow in the parking lot" in print doesn't really sound like as much fun - or as safe, really - as it was.  (Don't worry, the parking lot was plowed, so there were always massive snowdrifts just begging for sledding.)  So play in the snow in the parking lot we did - building tunnels, igloos, snow forts ... we played outside until we were so cold we couldn't feel our fingers and toes.  We survived snow like any good kids would.

Fast forward to The Great Snowpocalypse of 2010 of the Eastern Shoreboard and you will find the Sisters Fierce surviving just as we did as kids.  Now, that doesn't mean you will find C Fierce building a fort on the middle of Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC.  You won't find J Fierce running around with mismatched gloves in the nearest parking lot she can find.  Nope, what do the Sisters Fierce do when it snows?

We bake.  

Saturday morning I awoke to nearly two feet of snow blanketing the streets.  Leafing through my Williams Sonoma: Baking book, I took on the bread recipe that involved the longest rises.  What else was I going to do?  Run a mile or something?  (HA HA HA.  You know I don't RUN.  Unless I am being chased by a bear or a cyborg.  But not for FUN.)
Two loaves of beer bread, I got caraway-d away with one.  Get it?  There are caraway seeds.  Sorry.  You're sadly nodding if you've already met my father.  Next time you see him ask him what he calls a guy with no arms and no legs hanging on the wall.

Scandinavian Beer Bread is the perfect snow day recipe.  You probably have all of the ingredients in your fridge already - what, you don't have a can of dark stout beer?  Any dark beer will do.  And you get to drink the rest of it while you wait.  It says so right in the recipe.  The beer adds a deep flavor to the bread, taking it above and beyond a typical rye loaf.  In fact, I'd even substitute more whole wheat flour next time to really give it an earthy sweetness.  This bread is best right out of the oven, even better with a good hearty schmear of butter.

I put together a quick herb butter with some chives, thyme, salt and pepper, because I was bored and because I freaking LOVE butter.  Don't be afraid of adding herbs or other spices to butter - just get it to room temperature, chop up whatever you have on hand, and mix it together using a fork.  When everything's combined, get out a piece of plastic wrap.  Put the herb butter in the middle of the plastic wrap and roll it into a log.  Then put that baby in the fridge.  Unwrap it when company comes over and holy hannah they'd think you are the second coming of Martha.

When the snow continued its assault on the region, leaving me - and hundreds of thousands of other good little federal worker bees - at home for the past, oh, nine hundred days, I got busy with other recipes.  In order to stretch out my blog posts, stay tuned for a Very Detailed Post On How C Fierce Conquered Brioche And It Only Took Eight Hours But What Else Can You Do WHEN IT'S SNOWED EIGHT HUNDRED FEET IN THE PAST FOUR HOURS.  AND YOU CAN'T GET YOUR PHOTOS UPLOADED BECAUSE THE CORD IS AT YOUR OFFICE and so I'm really sorry about that.
Anyway - Happy Snow Day/Week/February.  Stay warm and bake bread!

Scandinavian Beer Bread
from Williams Sonoma: Baking

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 cup dark beer, warmed to 110 F
1 tsp salt
2 cups rye flour
3 - 3 1/3 cups unbleached bread flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark corn syrup (and before you get all mean on me, anti-corn syrup people, please, this makes two loaves of bread, 18-20 slices each, so a quarter cup of evil dark corn syrup means about a sniff in each loaf so get over it. end rant.)
1 egg white, well beaten

In a large bowl (in the bowl of your stand mixer is best), dissolve the yeast into the lukewarm water and let stand until bubbles start to rise, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the beer, rye flour, and one cup of the bread flour.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour. 

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the corn syrup and let cool to lukewarm (110 F), then add to the flour mixture.  Gradually store in 1 1.2 cups more bread flour to make a stiff but workable dough.  Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Knead by hand or with a dough hook, adding bread flour as needed.  Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes; knead by hook until the dough is not sticky and pulls cleanly from the bowl sides, about 10 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean, greased bowl, turning to coat all sides.  Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 60-70 minutes.  (My "warm place" when baking bread involves turning on the oven to 200 F, shutting every door and window, and letting the dough rise in a bowl covered loosely with greased plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel over it, sitting on top of the now-warmed stove.  Every house is different so just figure out where it works best in yours.)

Dust a baking sheet with flour.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press flat.  Cut in half and form each half into a ball, stretching the sides down and under, then flatten slightly.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Brush the loaves with the egg white mixture.  Bake until browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottoms, 35-40 minutes.  (If you have a teeny oven like me, you will need to rotate the baking sheet halfway through to ensure even browning.)  Wrap in kitchen towels to promote a soft crust and place on a wire rack to cool.

Yield: 2 14-oz loaves

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