Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Daily Bread: Experiments in baking

It's a bit scary. I'm afraid of yeast. I've only ever cooked Hot Cross Buns successfully, and even they were tough and stale by the next morning.
Baking bread is also scary because it feels like a huge investment in time. Weighing, mixing, rising, kneading. Especially kneading.
So I've been working up to a real loaf of bread. I started with tortillas, but that was mostly accident. Do you have a mental inventory of your freezer? You know, a rough idea of what's in there behind the frozen peas...
I thought there was flat bread in the freezer, but there wasn't! And it was 6.30 on Monday night and I really wanted burritos for dinner. How hard could tortillas be?
I used a recipe from Hillbilly Housewife, and it was dead easy. The only issue was cross-cultural - would polenta do instead of cornmeal? I don't know how authentic the result was, but it certainly tasted great.
Exhibit One:My courage bolstered, it was time to find a yeast recipe. Jules at Domestic Goddess in Training posted this recipe for perfect pita, and it was just the thing. There was yeast involved, but no rising time. If I'd pulled them out of the oven two minutes earlier, they may have been perfect. As it was, they were a bit crispy on the bottom. But watching them puff in the oven was awesome!
Exhibit Two:The next week, I saw these awesome Garlic Cheese Twists by Peabody. Garlic, cheese, yeast and a romantic back story, all in one. How could I resist? Ryan came home while I was busy twisting. He asked what we were having for dinner, and I didn't have an answer. But there would be garlic cheese twists!
Exhibit Three:
Oh, hang on, I forgot to take a picture of these. You'll just have to believe that they looked as good as the original.
So now I am on the look out for a simple loaf recipe. I'm happy to knead, but I need to work the rising time around work and dance classes and stuff. Any suggestions gratefully recieved!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My daily bread: Blog Action Day

I am learning how to bake my own bread. For me it is an exercise in gratitude. When I am baking, I am thankful for my kitchen, for the time and the ability to bake from scratch, for the leeway to buy more if I mess up. I know there's millions of people in this world who have none of these luxuries.

If money is tight, being able to cook can stretch your dollar much, much further. Hillbilly Housewife knows this. I made her corn tortillas for less than half of what it costs to buy a packet. She has an emergency menu and a lot of advice for feeding a family in hard times. Sophie Gray, the Destitute Gourmet, also knows this - her cookbooks are beautiful exercises in frugal, healthful abundance.

But still, there are people who won't have the resources to feed themselves this evening. I'm sure we've all seen pictures of fights over bags of rice in refugee camps, in far flung corners of the world. I think for today, Blog Action Day, we should look closer to home.

Do you know of a soup kitchen in your area? How about a food bank, or somewhere that hands out food parcels?
I challenge you to find a charity in your area that helps feed people. I'm sure there will be more than one. Find one that aligns with your values, or that you believe does good work, and see if you can help. Donations are always great, but why not volunteer? You are reading this blog, so I know you are already interested in food. Why not help share it? We could change the world, starting with our own neighbours.

Here's some of the groups here in Canberra that provide food to those who need it:

I am proud to be part of Blog Action Day. If you're helping share food and fight poverty in Canberra, please let us know in the comments.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - October 13

Happy Birthday only brother! I can't imagine what it was growing up with three big sisters, but you seem to have come through it in one piece.
This weeks' menus are brought to you by the thunder outside my door. My to-do list for this afternoon went like this:
- bring in laundry from the washing line
- go for a really long walk
- wash dishes
- blog
- make dinner
The weather has put a stop to the first two items! So here's the week's menus. Nothing very exciting:
Chicken and white bean salad
Home made pizza
Moroccan Chickpea Cous Cous Salad
Lamb chops, green beans and mashed potatoes
Jacket potatoes with more beans.
Happy Monday!