Monday, May 21, 2012

Baking bread and an update on the koala socks

Having a cold is seriously the worst. You aren't really sick enough to lie in bed with a crappy novel, lemon and honey tea and a hot water bottle (although you really, really want to) so you end up doing everything you would normally do except you feel really shitty at the same time and, if you're me and ridiculously concerned about spreading germs, spend so much time washing your hands and applying hand sanitiser that you start to see the benefits of an OCD lifestyle. If my hand-washing retains its current over-energetic level, send me to a doctor. Friends don't let friends become crazy people (if they can help it).

Bleurgh to you, cold germs! However, there are things that can be done to improve mood. Inspired by last night's Masterchef episode (is anyone else really bored with this current season? I can't watch it for longer than three minutes without rolling my eyes at the excessive hyperbole and changing channels), I decided to make some bread. Fresh bread smeared with real butter makes everything better (at least for a little while).

I was feeling shitty enough that I knew I didn't have the energy or willpower for the traditional mix-knead-rise-punch-rise-bake, so I looked for recipes that would rise if I left the dough in the fridge overnight. This one seemed to fit all my criteria, so I dutifully measured out the flour and popped it into the oven on 100 degrees Celcius for 10 minutes (the recipe says 'your oven at its lowest setting'. Honestly, Delia, you can do better than that. Give a temperature range, please).

I then added 220ml of warm water to the flour along with 1/2 teaspoon each of active dried yeast, caster sugar and salt. I mixed it till blended, then put the dough on my largest cutting board to be kneaded (I find it much easier to clean a cutting board than a benchtop and, as a lazy cook, easy is very important to me.).

The recipe says that after kneading I should 'feel the magic' - the dough literally 'springing to life as you push it away and it defiantly springs back to challenge you'. My dough sprung nowhere - I just kneaded until my arms got sore, a paltry, uneneregetic and slightly embarrassing 11 minutes. I covered it in olive oil and cling wrap and put it in the fridge for 12 hours or so while I sniffled, sooked and complained to anyone who would listen.

When I pulled it out in the morning it had risen but was really really cold (quel surprise!). I popped it into my loaf tray, which was lined with baking paper, covered it with cling wrap and left it to warm up and prove.

After two hours it had risen a little bit but not doubled in size. I'm attributing that to the cold in my house making it hard for the dough to wake up after the cold in the fridge. I decided it was risen enough for my purposes and popped it in the oven on 210 decrees.

Voila - 30 minutes later a loaf of bread emerged! It's a bit lopsided because I didn't shape the loaf properly but it looks like a proper white sandwich loaf. It's quite dense, which could be a) the recipe b) because I didn't knead it until it sprung to life and punched me or c) because my house was too cold for the second rise but it tastes delicious! I've never added caster sugar to a loaf before but the teeny tiny little bit of sweetness contrasts divinely with the saltiness of the butter and I'm afraid there isn't much left for sandwiches tomorrow BUT (and this is a big deal) I feel much better. Bread-baking = an untapped cure for many ailments.

Koala Sock Update

The socks are coming along well. I've got another day to finish the rest of the foot and the toe if I want them blocked and dry before Thursday - I think I'm going to make it. Yay!


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