Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

I Baked Bread, So Don’t Break Up!

March 31, 2008


When the routine bites hard
/ And ambitions are low
And the resentment rides high
/ But emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways/ Taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again
– Joy Division

Recently, a few of my closest friends have been going through devastating breakups- couples who have been together for 3 years, 5 years, 7 YEARS.

Why the sudden onslaught of break-ups? Let me tell you: it’s March.

March is a shameless adulteress who cheats on Winter with Spring. March makes promises of Spring, but refuses to abandon Winter entirely. This leaves people anxious, restless, sick of being housebound. While they wait around for warm weather, they begin pondering profound subjects such as their “lives”, “meaning”, and “existence”. The first thing to go is always the relationship.

Oh, I know all about the heartbreaks that March brings. Rewind to 2005. He threw an outrageous tantrum, paced back and forth in my living room for 2 hours, gave me back my keys, and slammed the front door. I watched the whole scene from the couch. Yes, it was a mess. Yes, we broke up- for real this time. Yes, it was in March.

Breaking up blows. Can I get an AMEN?

So to celebrate the final days of this miserable month, and to somehow spiritually reach out to all those in tragic break-up mode, I baked bread with Stacy and Amy this weekend. (Stacy just got married. Amy is a Serial Craig’s List Dater. I rush home on Friday nights to watch LOST by myself).

Can you imagine me, Kayoko– the clumsiest, most impatient anti-baker ever– baking bread? It’s unheard of, I know, but it was glorious!

Baking bread must be the most loving form of food creating- you must nurture it, let it grow, play with it, and keep a close eye on it, in order for it to reach its full potential. I LOVED this entire process- it is super easy, economical, and you feel like you are a part of a secret society (Amy: “People have been baking bread for thousands of years!”).

We baked three types of bread (links to recipes): the ever-magical “No-Knead Bread” from Bittman and the Sullivan Street Bakery, Focaccia from Delicious Days, and two loaves of Honey Wheat from All Recipes. You need to let the first two rise for at least 12 hours.

Here are the ingredients for all 3 recipes. This is it!Yeast before:
Yeast after- check out that head!:
Here is an easy to follow Bittman video for the No-Knead Bread that you should watch before starting. Bittman is the messiah.

Preparations for the No-Knead and focaccia:

19 hours later- It has RISEN! This is the No-Knead:

Throw No-Knead dough in a hot cast iron pot:
Almost there- about 40 minutes into it. We needed to constantly check on it:

It’s done! What a beauty- I would say that it took about 70 minutes for this to thoroughly finish. You need to keep tapping the top until you get a hollow sound at all angles. This was perfect- just shy of being burnt, golden crust, spongy inside- PERFECT:
Focaccia- also need to let this dough rise overnight. It didn’t rise as much as we wanted, but it was fine. We added roasted zucchini, peppers, and fresh rosemary on top. Genius! It was delicious:

Honey-wheat. This did not need to rise overnight. Next time, we will grease the measuring cup before pouring in the honey:

Kneading with love. Stacy said it felt like a baby. It did! Had this supple, bouncy flesh-like feel. This may have been the funnest part, the kneading, pulling and pounding. Tip: let dough rise in warmer-than-room temperature, Amy said. So close the doors and windows.

This recipe makes so much dough!
Buttering the top:
Almost done:
I had to leave before the honey-wheat came out, which was sad. But Stacy sent me these pictures. Look at these- they could be entered into pageants!
We all agreed that the No-Knead loaf was better than anything you could buy in the city (I’m sorry, but I shouldn’t have to trek into Soho for a baguette from Balthazar). As Amy said, it was elastic, spongy. It had depth. The crust was perfectly done- crunchy, hard, but not burnt. Ideal sandwich bread.

The focaccia was also awesome- not too greasy, just nicely coated with olive oil. I highly recommend adding the peppers- it adds some acidity, which balances out the oil.

About the honey-wheat, Stacy said: “Texture is rich and soft. Sweet in the best way!!” Sorry to miss it.

Baking bread was actually one of my 2008 resolutions. It was one of those daunting tasks that I had been fearing- it seems like such a pain in the ass! But I’ve learned that all you need is a little bit of time, and willingness to nurture it for an afternoon. It’s that simple. You too can be a part of this secret society.

A word to the wise: next time you want to break-up with your partners, bake bread together. I think it might help. No talking, just kneading. Or No-Kneading. This should inevitably lead to hot, passionate sex on the kitchen floor. YESSS!

Starting tomorrow, break-ups should officially be put on hold until March 2009.

LOVE happenings to look forward to in April:
– Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights is released in the US
– After a 11 year “break-up”, Portishead’s new album Third officially comes out
– New episodes of LOST (Desmond and Penny!)
– Tulips! (my favorite, hint hint)
– My BIRTHDAY!!! Let’s all make out!

In 2 of the 5 above films, the doomed couples do not get back together in the end. The first three people to email me which films wins a prize! Email answers to umamimart@gmail.com

Film montage starting at top: © United Artists; © Focus Features; © Golden Harvest Co.; © New Line Cinema; © 20th Century Fox.

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Weekend Relaxation – Baking a Challah Bread

February 20, 2008

Something about bread baking makes me feel very calm. It takes all day, kneading, resting, kneading, resting, which is almost zen kind of experience. Not that I am religious or anything, so I wouldn’t know the real zen relaxation, but I feel good when baking bread.

I just saw a recipe on Food Network, and thought it would be a good weekend pastime.

Recipe is as follows:

-1 cup warm water, about 110 degrees F
-1 teaspoon sugar
– 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
– 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus about 1 cup for kneading
– 1⁄3 cup honey
– 2 whole large eggs
– 3 large egg yolks
– 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 tablespoon kosher salt
– 3/4 cup to 1 cup currants
– 1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Dissolve sugar and yeast in water, let it bubble up for about 8 minutes. Mix it with honey, 1 whole egg, egg yolks, olive oil. Make a well on flour and salt mixture, pour in the wet ingredients, and currants. Once it’s mixed, knead it for about 10 minutes.

To mix the ingredients, I used a stand mixer, but you should definitely knead it manually. It definitely makes a difference. Dough hook doesn’t do what our hands can do…

Once it’s smooth, put it in a greased bowl, and let it rise until the size doubles. (Fortunately I have a bread rising mechanism on my oven, so it was easy).

When the size doubles, punch it down and knead it for just a minute, then put it back and let it rise again until the size doubles.

Once it’s done, you cut the dough into three equal pieces (some people do 6, but I took the easy way). Braid the dough nicely, as if you are braiding a girl’s hair. Let is rise AGAIN until the size doubles.

Brush it with egg, bake it for about 30 minutes on 375 oven or until it sounds hollow. I didn’t sprinkle it with poppy seeds, since I don’t have such a drug in my household. hehe.

I should have taken pictures of each step, but of course, when I realized this would be a perfect one, it was already done.

Doesn’t this look GORGEOUS? I should work for Amy’s Bread. Too bad, I don’t eat too much bread, and I have NO IDEA about good bread vs. bad bread. But I brought it to work, and many “bread connoisseurs” said it was fabulous. So I guess it was a success in both appearance and taste.

BLT Steak’s Popover

February 19, 2008

I told you that I would blog about BLT’s famous popover (I miss sunny Puerto Rico). Well, images from the restaurant weren’t good enough, also they gave a recipe card with it, so I decided to make it myself. I have had popovers at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, and they were crispy on the outside, and hollow inside, and good stuff. BLT’s version was huge, and so crisp outside, and the Gruyere cheese definitely added some indescribable joy to it.

Since I bought a 6 popover pan, I reduced the recipe into half.

  • 2 cups of flour
  • A bit less than 1 table spoon of salt
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 4 eggs
  • gruyere cheese

Warm the milk, beat eggs until they are frothy, add milk slowly (so that it doesn’t cook the eggs). Sift flour and salt, and mix them together well. Make sure you don’t chill the batter. Keep it a bit warm of room temp.

Meanwhile, stick popover pan into 350 degree oven. Once it’s hot, take it out, and spray it with non stick spray, pour the batter (I filled it basically to the top to make the largest possible popovers). Sprinkle cheese on top, and put into the oven for 50 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN, it will deflate it!

Wow, it started to rise!!
Soon enough, it looks like erected dog penis.
It’s getting bigger and by this time, the smell of burning cheese was so delicious!
Don’t they look fabulous?
As long as you don’t chill the batter, and not open the oven door, this is almost fail proof. For your next dinner party, instead of regular bread, try this. This is definitely the “Did you really make this? Holy shit!” kind of stuff. Similar recipe is yorkshire pudding, but it uses beef jus, but this one doesn’t use any additional grease (other than cooking spray), so it’s vegetarian friendly too.

San Francisco Sourdough

September 14, 2007

Back from the Bay Area, where I ate pretty well (Sushi Kuni, Scoma’s, MacArthur Park, Dynasty), but here’s what I trekked all the way back to New York with:

How ecstatic was I to find a Boudin Bakery INSIDE the United terminal at SFO? Boudin is the essence of San Francisco– it’s the best damn sourdough in the world! Since 1849! For whatever reason, NY has no good sourdough ANYWHERE. God, I actually can’t even remember the last time I had it… Look at this, it’s beautiful!



Such a hard and crunchy crust, perfectly golden. It’s actually a rather dense, more doughy bread, almost moist, just faintly sour, never overly tangy or anything.

I picked up a few things at the store- hummus, goat cheese, salami, a tomato, clam chowder, and had a feast with my coworkers. Nothing like sharing a loaf of love from San Francisco!