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Food Friday – Breadmaking Failure

I really enjoy making bread. There is something almost primal about mixing the dough by hand, kneading it, letting it rise, punching it down. Its a very physical process. As I do it, I’m continuing an age old tradition, and feel connected to that history.

I love the smell of baking bread, and there are few more satisfying pleasures than eating a piece of fresh baked bread with just a scrape of butter on it. I like to think it is also healthier. There are no preservatives or chemicals in my home made bread. Its less processed.

However, as I wrote on Wednesday, I’m trying to manage my time better so I can be more productive. With this in mind, I bought a breadmaker using some gift cards I’d been given for Christmas.

Excited by my new purchase, I bought a bread mix to make up some rye bread and set to work as soon as I arrived home.

It was a disaster.

At first I couldn’t work out what I had done wrong, but then I realised. In my eagerness to get started, I had grabbed the 500 mL measuring jug instead of the 250 mL – so put twice the amount of water into the bread as I should have.

I made a second loaf, with the correct quantity of water this time. It worked out much better, but was quite difficult to slice. I much prefer the flavour and textures of the breads I’ve made by hand.

I’ll keep trying with the bread maker though.

Have you had any kitchen disasters? Oh, and does anyone have any tips for making good bread in a breadmaker?

New Years Resolutions

I do love making New Year Resolutions. I take my time with them and often spend much of January figuring them out.It’s possibly not really the best time for that, as I’m on holiday and therefore have all this time on my hands – once I return towork many of the resolutions seem a little difficult to maintain.

This is my list so far:

1. Bake my own bread. This came in part as a result of our trip to Ireland last year. The bread was so delicious that it reminded me of how good home baked bread is. Its easy too, though you do have to commit to being home for half a day to keep an eye on rising dough, etc. The recipe I’ve had most success with so far is here:

2. Do a little Yoga every day. I really hate most forms of exercise, but I find yoga calming and like the strength and flexibility it brings. As soon as the school term recommences I plan to take up classes. In the meantime I’ve downloaded Yoga HD, an iPad app which is actually really good. You can put together your own routines out of a bank of around 200 asanas. It also has preprogrammed routines. I’ve been doing one of the 30 minute beginner workouts – and it’s hard work, but definitely effective for building up core strength. I’ve also been feeling it building up strength in my arms.

3. Take a photo every day. Well, I thought it could be fun to try and keep up with this – kind of like a visual diary. At the end of the year I want to put them together into some sort of presentation.

4. Take control of my finances. When I was younger and earning less, I needed a very restrictive budget just to make sure I had food in the cupboard – and sometimes I didn’t even have that. But in the past few years, I’ve moved into a much more comfortable position, and rebelling against the suffocating restrictions of earlier budgets, have been spending money like it’s air. I want something – I buy it. Its time to reign it all in and start taking control again. After all I’m not getting any younger – in my old age I don’t want to be living in poverty because I blew all my salary on cofffee, apps and other fluff. To do this,  I downloaded an app that syncs with my iPad and iPhone called Home Budget. There are a number of similar apps, but this had good reviews, and so far I’m very happy with it.

5. A late addition to my list: WordPress is running a ‘postaday’ and ‘postaweek’ challenge for 2011. I’ll be attempting to fulfil the post a week one.  So I guess, for the time being at least, you’ll be hearing a little more from me.

Mussels in Tomato Sauce with Oven Baked Potato Chips

Last night I had my parents around for dinner to celebrate Dad’s birthday. As it was a work night dinner, I wanted to keep it simple, but still make it a memorable evening.

I decided on a bistro style meal.  Mussels, with home-made potato chips (fries) to soak up the sauce. I also made a garden salad.

As my mother had never eaten mussels before, I went with a tomato based sauce with plenty of flavour. They took around 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook.

 

Mussels with Tomato and Basil

(From Seafood Kitchen, by Vicki Wild)

9780732257996-The Seafood Kitchen
  
I’ve adapted this recipe only slightly from the original.

 

Ingredients:
1 kg live mussels
olive oil
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped.
2 tins of chopped tomatoes.
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped basil
4 tablespoons chopped parsley

 

Method

Heat the oil in a wok and saute the onion and garlic. When the onion turns transparent, add the tomatoes, paste, parsley and basil. Simmer gently for around 5 minutes. Add the mussels and continue to simmer until the shells open. Discard any that do not open.

Oven baked potato chips with sea salt.

A lot of people enjoy crusty bread, but I prefer chips as an accompaniment for mussels.  I wasn’t sure how to go about this, but I found a number of recipes on the net with potential. I ended up adapting this.

 My recipe used the same method, but was simpler. I also increased the quantity because while the recipe claimed to serve 4 people, I was fairly sure that we would be wanting more.

Ingredients
8 large Pontiac potatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt.

 

Method
Preheat the oven to 400F (@210C). Arrange the baking racks to enable you to put two baking sheets at the very top of the oven.
Slice each potato into about 4 planks lengthwise, then cut each plank lengthwise into thirds. (of course you can change this to suit the size and shape chips you want),
Place in a single layer onto two baking sheets, leaving spaces between each chip so they will brown.
Drizzle with olive oil and turn chips to coat them completely.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove the trays and turn the chips over. Swap the trays around so the one on the lower rack is now at the top.
Bake for another 25 minutes or until the edges are brown and crispy.
Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

 

My parents loved these and they went perfectly with the mussels. They were hot, crisp and delicious.

Of course, serving mussels has its own problems. You need large deep bowls for the mussels, and another large bowl for the shells. I found this set of pasta bowls at David Jones. The pasta bowls were perfect for serving the mussels, and the large serving bowl was a great receptacle for the shells.
Ecology - Pasta Set in Dimple Textured, 5 Pieces