Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lenten Discipline (updated!)

Lent has come along, and with it, the adoption of a discipline.  

This year, we are participating in Change for Lent, where we collect change in a jar, choosing to have gratitude towards the discipline that we have taken on.  The Change is then given to a group at church (in our case, the youth) who will have sole discretion over how to use the money. 

For us, we decided to give up purchasing baked goods, and to give all the money we'd be using to buy those goods to the change jar.  

All was going well.  I had ground several types of flours.  I had taught M to make grant loaves- a dump-and-stir bread that is the #1 easiest of all.  (Kneaded breads were next, and no-kneads breads were going to be introduced in April.)  I'd had a few whoops moments, like when I got to a restaurant and clean forgot it was Lent so I snarfed up a couple slices out of the bread basket before remembering!  But still, the jar was filling up. 

And then the oven broke.  

I was baking eggplant for eggplant sandwiches.  Batch one went great.  But as I opened the oven for batch 2, the inner glass in the oven just SHATTERED!  It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen happen in my kitchen.  It was like shattering Pyrex.  

We are now on day 7 of No Oven, and it will be Tuesday before we have an oven again.  

So today I am experimenting with Slow Cooker bread.  I will include a recipe below, but not the link that I adapted the recipe from.  I don't want to embarrass the blogger (who has a ton of comments saying "Wow, this recipe didn't work for me").  I think the blogger has a great recipe, but she didn't write it up very well.  She advised mixing the yeast and salt, and then putting that into the flour and adding water.  There was also way too much salt- a whole tablespoon!  Oops.  Overall, I think she knows what she's doing, but mixed up the recipe, and I know what I'm doing, so I knew how to fix it.  

Here's what I did- your mileage may vary!  

It is still in the slow cooker.   I have NOT tried this yet, so it could still be horrible.  You've been warned.  

Here it is!  It came out delicious!!  I am curious as to whether using a loaf pan could help it plump up a little thicker, as it was pretty flat, but it clearly increased in size.  So maybe a loaf pan to encourage that increase to be verticle rather than horitzonal?  Overall verdict, though: YUM! 

Second overall verdict: Anxiety producing, as I was concerned about whether I was burning down the house using a dry slow cooker.  

This makes two small loaves.  I almost got cocky and put them both into the slow cooker together.  Do NOT do that!  The dough continues to rise in the slow cooker and it would have overflowed!  Whew.  Dodged that bullet! 

This is a half batch, enough for 2 small loaves
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tb yeast
1 tsp sugar
Mix all these together, and put them somewhere warm.  Boom.  You are now proofing your yeast.  

In a LARGE bowl: 
1/2-3/4 Tsp kosher salt3 1/4 cups flour- I used a mix of regular flour, vital wheat gluten, and quinoa flour, since I've been dying to see how it would behave.  I used 2 cups of regular, ¼ cup of gluten, and 1 cup of quinoa.  For a regular loaf, I'd recommend using ½ and ½ whole wheat/white flour, and in the base of each cup, add a spoonful of gluten.  The vital wheat gluten transforms your regular flour into a "bread" flour, with a higher protein count.  It's not ESSENTIAL, but every time I've remembered to use it, my bread is comes out better.  I'm going on about 14+ years of making my own bread, so the non-scientist here says "Gluten… it makes your bread yummy."  (With apologies to my friends with celiac, who at least can have those ice cream cones that are forbidden to me!)  

Make a well in the center of your flour and salt mixture.  Then add your water/yeast mixture.  Mix it all together, and maybe use your hand to get all the flour moistened.  Then pop it into a warm place to rise for 2 hours.  I put mine in that handy turned-off microwave aka bread-proofing box and went to visit the boy at the Bike Shop.  

One of my friends works for Powerbar and was doing a demo.  Wow, has Powerbar come a long way!  There was a time when I couldn't even LOOK at Powerbar because their bars were so awful.  And today I was snarfing down samples.  If you've been avoiding Powerbar because you, like me, experienced the rubbery bars years ago, it is time to give them another look!  Num num num.  

Then I came home, separated the dough into TWO pieces, and put a piece of parchment into my slow cooker.  I shaped the dough into a ball (well, sort of a squoval- a squareish oval sort of thing) and plunked it into the cooker where it is right now.  

I put the other piece of dough into the fridge and will take it out in a few minutes for batch #2.  Remember, for love of Pete, do NOT get cocky and bake the whole batch at once!  That is bad!  I thought the two dough balls were pathetically small, even after they rose pretty impressively, but batch #1 has CONTINUED to rise in the slow cooker!  I would have had an overflowing swear word situation on hand.  Believe me, separate this out into TWO BATCHES! 

Will update when bread is ready

Also today, I went to REI.  I had gotten birthday money from the parental units, and so I decided to indulge in a little thing I'd been day dreaming about- a running belt!  I need to have sports drink handy, and a snack, and my phone when I run.  Seriously- I'm like a kindergartener.  No snack?  Temper tantrum.  

After getting M an Amphibipod belt for Christmas, I borrowed it one day and loved it.  Zero bounce, and super comfy!  Just a wee bit big.  Thankfully, there was a women's version available, but I'm terrible at buying things for myself.  (I have too much guilt and anxiety to successfully be a good impulse shopper.)  So birthday money, meet birthday treat.  I now have the cute girl version of the running belt, and with the extra water bottles I already bought, we can each pack three bottles of water and food for a nice, long outing!  

This is the one I got.  I'll post pictures of that, too, later on.  

Wow, terrible and blurry shot that I snappy to show my mother!  But this is the design.  Since I took this shot, I collected ALL our amphibipod bottles, and reorganized the pouches.  So Martin has the BIG pouch and three bottles, and I have this small food pouch and another small phone pouch, and three bottles.  And we now have bottles in two sizes, plus two spares! So far, am pretty happy with the lack of bounce, although it needs a real outing.  

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