From Scratch

Now that most of the major winter holidays have passed, I've started to reminisce about what I will miss most about this notorious "Windy City" season. Feeling unmotivated to go outside despite this timid winter weather? Nope. Experiencing "my eyes are bigger than my stomach" syndrome on all too many occasions due to the sudden scads of food that present themselves at every holiday? Nope. Having hands the texture of sandpaper throughout the winter months? Nope. One thing that I will miss? With the holiday season, comes the promise of my mom's homemade bread. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, there's always mom's raisin bread. Sometimes it even fills up every meal of the day - it's that good. I've even come to freezing it so I can sneak some during the non-glacial months of the year. Because of the power this bread has had over me, I've never really ventured into the realm of bread making myself - let's be honest, I never really had to. However, that all changed when I got a peek at the Flour cookbook. There were so many tempting recipes, I just had to make my own. (Sorry mom - don't worry, your raisin bread still takes the cake.)

Last week I was feeling inspired and made the basic brioche. Not only was it easy, all considered (aside from the whole testing your patience thing - making bread is a labor of love, do not expect to indulge in the fruits of your labor until at least 24 hours after you start making the dough), but it was multi-purpose too. The recipe I used makes 2 doughs. So with one, I made a basic loaf of bread and with the other I made brioche au chocolate (brioche filled with a light layer of pastry cream and sprinkled with semi sweet chocolate chips). Believe me, you'll have trouble waiting the 35-45 minutes for these suckers to bake, much less waiting the 2-4 hours for them to proof after you've assembled them. Like I said, labor of love. The waiting makes them all the more worth it.

Plus, the bread itself makes the perfect base for toast, grilled cheese, or really any kind of sandwich. This week I've found myself making any excuse to have a sandwich at every meal. Peanut butter, tofu "egg" salad, you name it. If I had some semblance of the ingredients in my fridge, I made it and put it on some brioche.

If you don't have access to something like the Flour cookbook for your foray into bread-making, I would highly recommend going to your local library (this is in stock at CPL, don't worry I already checked) - and checking out the Soup and Bread Cookbook. The perfect remedy for winter's doldrums meals of "whatever I can heat up quick in the oven." 

Bread. It's something so basic and one of the simplest staples - that we tend to take for granted. When in reality, it's not all that difficult to make yourself. Some weeks might be more challenging than others to fit it in, but folks, that's what the beauty of the freezer is for - keeping your labor of love fresh for when you need it, even if it's a week or so later. At least give it a try. You won't be sorry. Promise.

Bread also goes quite well with another recipe I tried my hand at making from scratch this week - gnocchi! I made whole wheat gnocchi with cremini mushrooms and peas in a light butter sauce (aka - some melted creme fresh, so yum!) - and of course topped with some fresh shavings of parm. It was surprisingly easy and came out amazingly well for a first attempt.

What have you attempted to make from scratch this winter, dear readers?

1 comment:

  1. You are the new offical bread baker of the familly. The Brioche in every form is delicious.......