The Perfect Loaf of Homemade Bread

bread

I used to be intimidated by the thought of baking bread, mostly because other people seemed daunted by the task, and the only people I knew who did bake bread used bread machines that turned out spongy, crustless and oddly-shaped loaves. When I finally decided to give it a try, I was fortunate enough to find this basic bread recipe which turned wonderfully on my first try. I’ve modified the recipe ever so slightly, so my version is below.

I’ve been using this recipe for years now and it consistently turns out well. Homemade bread it’s more than worth the work; there’s nothing more comforting than a warm loaf fresh from the oven and the smell that fills your house is magnificent.

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5 Reasons I Can’t Follow You On Pinterest*

1. You own a crockpot

Listen, my mom is the prime audience for the crock pot (housewife, late 50’s, hates to cook) and even she would look at a pin of “25 low-fat crock pot recipes” and be like, “Really?” So it’s hard for me to understand why a woman in her 20’s would aspire (descend?) to this level of culinary apathy.

2. You think a leggings + sweater ensemble is fashion-forward

The outfit you just repinned with the caption “super cute fall look” is what I sleep in. Cute in a casual, thrown-together, Saturday-chores way? Perhaps. But are you taking this picture with you to the mall? I hope not.

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Meringues and Mixed Berry Compote

Inspired by these beauties I saw in Borough Market in London, I decided to try making meringues. I started with two egg whites. According to everything I’ve read about meringues, the whites have to be 100% yoke free to shape up correctly, so separate carefully.

I whipped the whites until they formed peaks, then added a half cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract and continued whipping until stiff and glossy.

Then I spooned the mixture onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.

Meringues need to be baked for a long time at a low temperature. The lowest setting on my oven is 250° so I baked them at that temperature for about 1 hour and 20 minutes until they sounded hollow when I tapped them.

To make the compote, I started with a simple syrup from 1/4 water and 1/2 cup sugar, then added 1 pound of chopped strawberries and 1 pint of blueberries.

I boiled the berries until they cooked down to a thick sauce and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Voila!

Makin’ horchata (I’d look psychotic in a balaclava)

First of all, you’ll probably want to have this playing in the background as you read this post.

So we started a monthly “recipe club” at work – on the last Tuesday of the month we each bring in a dish for lunch,  rotating between entrees, sides, desserts and beverages, that fits the theme of the month. The idea is that we all try making something we’ve never attempted before.

This month’s theme was “Mexican” and my assignment was beverages, so I decided to make Horchata.

Every recipe I found called for long grain white rice, but I had some Arborio rice on hand to use instead and it seemed to work fine.

I ground the rice in a food processor for several minutes until it reached a texture similar to couscous, then added a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. (Recipes called for an inch or two of cinnamon bark, but I only had ground on hand, so I approximated an equivalent.)

After combining the rice and cinnamon, I covered with approximately 6 cups of water and soaked the mixture for 7.5 hours. Most recipes say to soak overnight or 8 hours minimum, so I was pushing it.

Nonetheless, after soaking I blended the mixture, adding vanilla extract and some more water.

After blending, I poured the mixture through a fine wire strainer to separate bits of rice from the liquid. Most recipes say to strain the liquid through cheesecloth next, but since I didn’t have any on hand, I used the wire strainer a second time. I kept the horchata refrigerated and served over ice with a little extra cinnamon on top at our potluck lunch in the office the next day.

Delicious!

Next time I make Horchata I want to try using milk and including ground almonds or almond extract, which some recipes call for. Obviously, I didn’t strictly follow a single recipe when I made this, but here are a few legit recipes I used as guides, including one from Martha Stewart that uses rice flour rather than ground rice to avoid having to soak overnight:

Food Network Horchata recipe

Some guy named David Lebovitz’s recipe

Martha Stewart’s recipe

Enjoy!