It's bustin' out all over. The rains continue, and it appears that the ducks--Fred and Ethel--are here to stay.
I thought I would start with an observation on fashion, being a 21st century metrosexual male and therefore fully qualified to opine on the subject. Not all progress is good, but with regard to some things, it clearly is. In the category of the latter, we all should be glad that the attire in this video has gone out of style, especially, I am led to understand by the star of the film (who is an interpreter at an historical site and one of my peeps), when it comes to going to the bathroom:
Now, on to the baking.
I don't know Betsy, who apparently asked Jeff and Zoë to develop a loaf "full of tasty and nutritious seeds," but the eponymous Seeded Oat Bread they developed for her is terrific. At Michelle's suggestion I had made it before, and was happy to have an excuse to make it again. This bread has rolled oats, whole pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, and ground flaxseed. It is lightly sweetened (I used honey, but you can use barley malt or agave syrup) and enriched with a bit of oil.
I made a full batch, and used half to make two loaves. Instead of sprinkling seeds on top, I sprinkled them on the counter and rolled the loaves in them as I formed them. I think this works much better because the seeds adhere more securely and reliably.
I used the rest of the dough to make English Muffins.Muffin Mania) I have described my English Muffin Method--using parchment paper to get the muffins onto my electric griddle after they have rested and risen. In sum, I roll out the dough, cut it with a biscuit cutter, and place the muffins on parchment paper dusted with cornmeal. I then dust the tops with more cornmeal and let them rise. Then I cut the paper around each muffin and use a spatula to move paper and muffin to the griddle. I cook the muffins about 7 minutes on each side, and after about 4-5 minutes on the parchment paper I slide the muffins off (or the parchment paper out) for better browning. This method has worked for me--it avoids mangling risen muffins which have gotten stuck to the peel or counter--but cutting the paper was a bit fussy. So, I decided to try a more global approach.
I cut a piece of parchment paper to the size of my griddle (trust me, this is less painful if you do it before you preheat the griddle), put it on a cookie sheet that had no rim on one side (or use the bottom of a rimmed sheet) dusted it with cornmeal, made my muffins, placed them on the parchment paper, dusted the tops with cornmeal, and let them rise just as usual.
It worked pretty well, certainly well enough to supplant my old method. The only problem was that the paper was kind of long and awkward to pull out. Next time, especially if I am not making quite so many muffins, I would leave a bit of space through the middle, cross-wise, and once it was on the griddle cut the paper in half. Then I could work from each end to the middle to get the muffins off, which might be a bit easier.
As for the muffins, they were terrific. By way of experiment, I worked craisins into some of the muffins, this too was a great success--I wish I had added craisins to more of them.
The next assignment was for Pain Bouillabaisse, a Provençal Fisherman’s Bread. I was a bit leery of this bread, largely because it had sliced fennel bulb in it, and I am not a big fan of licorice. As is often the case when expectations are modest, I was pleasantly surprised. (As the saying goes, expect less and you (usually) won't be disappointed. A related concept holds that you should borrow money from a pessimist (or in the case of my children, your parents), because they don't expect to get it back. There is also a corollary approach to happiness which posits that you should live simply, give more and expect less (good luck with that, let me know how it works for you).)
In addition to the fennel this bread had garlic, herbes de Provençe, and saffron--traditional flavorings for a Bouillabaisse. No fish, however. For the saffron I used threads rather than powder, and steeped them in the water I used to make the bread. They imparted a lovely color.
Either way, the bread was very nice. I could not identify any particular flavor, certainly not licorice. But the combination of herb[e]s with the garlic and the fennel was very very pleasant. The only down side to making this bread is that bulb of fennel, which I do not usually have in the crisper pan. That makes this pretty much a "special occasion" bread.
Finally, another experiment. I had seen a Food Network recipe for Chicken Pot Pie Turnovers. The recipe used frozen puff pastry. Now I love chicken pot pies, but they are not the most healthy of entrees. So I thought, what about Chicken Pot Pie Calzones? I mixed some left over chicken with some defrosted frozen mixed vegetables and some chicken gravy. I used about a cup of each. My goal was to not get it too saucy, so I kept the gravy fairly thick. Then I rolled some Whole Wheat Master dough out thin into circles, spooned on some filling, folded them, sealed the edges, cut some slits in the top, and baked them at 375 for about 30 minutes. Then the hard part, I let them rest about 10 minutes.
They worked out pretty well.
So that is it for this time. The countdown continues with 8 to go.