Monday, January 23, 2012

Baking Bread

It seems at though winter has finally made its way to the Northeast. I don't know about anyone else but I was craving snow in trees, icy sidewalks and a reason to bundle up in hats, mittens & scarves. I keep promising to be more present here but I've found myself lacking things to photograph in the midst of the nasty, rainy weeks we've been having. That being said - I have to make a disclaimer, there has been plenty going on in my life. Just not the sort of things that make good photographs.

Today is the only day I have between winter courses and the start of my Spring semester. After five weeks of slaving over my laptop with pages and pages of printed powerpoint slides, I'm finished (and with a 100% in my advertising course, too!). The weekend snow has kept me from getting much done in the way of errands but I did get to listen to a lot of Florence + the Machine radio on Pandora, read some of this book, and clean my entire apartment.

Luckily, my boyfriend loves to brave the snow in his big red, four-wheel drive, Tahoe. On Friday, we planned to see a movie but abandoned our plan for a comfy bed and watching the snow finally fall. Cliche? yes... but true. On Saturday, he rescued me after a slow night of work and we managed to make it to the movies. The first time we've ever gone to the movies together.. in six months. Unfortunately, I don't think we will ever go again after I slept through the entire 11:50 showing of Haywire. (Oops.)

Somehow though, I managed to leave my phone at home when we left for the movies. And even more incredible, I made it over 36 hours without it - and the world didn't end. (And my mom only texted Trevor once.)

Sundays are always my favorite part of the weekend though and this week was no different. After sleeping in, Trevor & I ventured to our favorite little lunch spot, a tiny cafe in Jacobus called Geezer's. Since the cook overslept, lunch was running late, so we finally took the time to explore the 30+ rooms of antiques found in Grey Beards Antiques and Collectibles. My boyfriend, the self-proclaimed "furniture whore" was enthralled by victorian couches, marble accent pieces and rustic wooden farm tables. I found myself gawking over cases of vintage jewelry and flipping through Beatles albums. It took serious effort for us to turn around and venture back down three floors of stairs for lunch. The best part? They serve the best chai & double lattes with your meal.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful - a trip to the gym, a ninety question Human Resources Management exam, a marathon of Clint Eastwood movies, and chinese delivered for dinner.

Have I mentioned that I love Sundays?

But the real reason I stopped to write today wasn't to just share stories of my weekend but to share a gluten free recipe that I fell in love with today. After being told that my medical problems are coming from anxiety, I set out on a mission to do more things I enjoy. Lately, cooking has become my favorite past time. And last week? I fell in love with baking bread. Since the last loaf lasted only three days, I ventured the freezing rain today for ingredients to make not only another loaf of bread but flat bread for packed lunches this week.

I found multiple recipes but settled on using a recipe from this blog as my basis. If you know me though, you know that I never follow recipes very well and with only a trip to Walmart, I knew I'd be struggling to find brown rice flour or tapioca starch.

I know that most of you reading this don't eat gluten-free but I think this is a great flat bread, either way. Plus, baking bread is one of the best ways to spend a rainy, icy, cold, winter Monday.

You will need: 

1 Cup of Stone Ground White Rice Flour
(I use Bob's Red Mill, which I bought at Walmart)
1/2 Cup of Corn Starch
2 Tablespoons of Sugar in the Raw
(you can substitute regular sugar, if you prefer but I am trying to make a conscious effort to eliminate processed sugar)
2 Teaspoons of Xantham Gum
(you can find this in the gluten free section at Giant or Walmart, I prefer Bob's Red Mill for this as well - it's slightly expensive but the bonus is that you'll have plenty left for other recipes!)
1 Packet of Fleischmann's ActiveDry Yeast (located near the flour)
1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
1 Teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil (I used Bertolli Classico)
2 Eggs
Parchment Paper
A Standard Cookie Sheet

To make:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover the cookie sheet. If you don't have parchment paper, you can oil and dust the pan instead. (That being said, I really recommend the parchment paper!)
  • Mix together all of the dry ingredients including the rice flour, corn starch, xantham gum, yeast and salt.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine all of your wet ingredients (water, vinegar, oil & eggs). If you have a standing mixer, use that bowl. If not, use a hand mixer to quickly combine the ingredients.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients while beating at a low speed.
  • After combined, beat on a medium speed for about four minutes if you are using a standing mixer. If you are using a hand mixer, mix until the dough becomes too thick for the mixing blades.
  • Scoop the dough out and place on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  • Wet a metal spoon and use the back to spread the dough evenly on the sheet. Try to get it to be a uniform thickness across - this is easier said than done. Just make sure to reach all of the edges of the pan and not to leave any areas too thin.
  • Here's where you will need some patience (a lesson I'm learning from baking breads) - place the dough in a warm spot to rest and rise for about thirty-five or forty minutes. I kept my cookie sheet on my stovetop. It's difficult to get bread to rise properly in this weather!
  • Once your dough has set, bake it for approximately 12 minutes. The top will be slightly browned when it is ready. It may also have a bit of a crust to it but that will go away as your bread is cooling.
  • Allow the bread to cool for at least ten minutes before using.
  • To cut the bread, a pizza cutter works wonders. I was able to make four large flat bread wraps from this batch.

For lunch, I made this sandwich from the bread that had finally cooled. It's filled with slice of Muenster cheese, three pieces of ham, three pieces of turkey, two pieces of bacon, fresh spinach and a mayonnaise spread with garlic power, onion powder & italian seasoning. Just fold it over & stick a toothpick in the center to make it easy! The bread is the perfect texture and has a very light taste. Many gluten-free breads fail on both of these levels so I was pleasantly surprised by just how delicious it was! And I have to say, I'm not dreading packed lunches quite as much, now. Plus, it allowed me to eat some nice dark leafy vegetables, one of my newest goals. (More about that, later).

The rest of my Monday will be spent in a less relaxed fashion. As soon as this next loaf of whole-grain bread comes out of the oven, I'm off to a neurology visit. After that? Laundry and worrying myself to death over the first day of classes.

Hope you are finding a pleasant way to spend this rainy cold day.

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