Friday, August 20, 2010

Cuban Bread...BIG YUM!

While my son and I were in Kansas City for a handmade pasta class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City, I went to Whole Foods Market and picked up an August copy of Tastebud magazine. It is a free magazine distributed in Kansas City and it is always packed with interesting recipes and shopping ideas that revolve around food. This month, there is a recipe for "Cuban bread"  that caught my attention (since you know what a bona fide carb and baking freak I am) and haunted me. So last night I had to just give in to the temptation and bake that bread!

OMG!! It was fabulous!
Here is the recipe-it was a reprint from a Jan/Feb 1996 issue of a Cook's magazine column by Jane and Michael Stern. Darn it--now I am going to have to hunt down a back issue of that magazine! However, here is the recipe. Try it, I promise it's slightly sourdough tang will hook you on the first bite that you take . As for me, I'm making more this weekend, I want to teach the kids how to bake a good loaf of bread and this one fits the bill. Do remember to mist the oven--it does make a difference in the crust. This crust is simply divine!!

Cuban Bread

1 pkg yeast ( I used 1Tblsp. bulk yeast)
2 Tblsp. sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water (110-112 degrees)
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour (I used bread flour)
2 tsp salt (I used sea salt)
1/3 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and the sugar in 2/3 cup warm water. when foamy, whisk in 1 cup of the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 4 hours in a warm place. (I let mine sit for about 6 since I had errands to run)

Stir in the remaining 2/3 cup water. Combine 3 cups of the flour with the salt and beat into the yeast mixture. Add veggie oil and beat until dough just holds together. (I let the dough hook on my KitchenAide mixer do the job for about 5 minutes). Turn the dough onto a floured surface and let rest while you clean and oil the bowl.

Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic, 5-6 minutes, adding only enough flour to make the dough workable and soft. (again, I let my dough hook do that job..I love my KitchenAide!), Return the dough to the oiled bowl and turn the dough once to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. (I started this whole process late at night, so I covered the dough and sat it in the fridge overnight to slow rise. In the morning I set the covered bowl on the counter to come to room temp and rise more--it does add a lot to the flavor)

Lightly oil a french bread pan (I used a cookie sheet since I don't have a french bread pan) and punch down dough. Divide into 2 parts and roll each part into a 16-18 inch rope. Put in the prepared pan and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Slash each loaf with a very sharp knife 2-3 times along the top and mist the loaves with water (I also misted the heck out of the oven. My hair is permanently frizzed) .

Bake in a preheated oven until the loaves are light and golden--20 to 25 minutes, misting them again when they have been in the oven for 7 minutes (again, I can't follow instructions, so I misted mine a couple more times, just to buck the system.  I know-I'm such a rebel...)

Spread with butter, gorge yourself until you can't move and grin like the cat that ate the canary. THIS IS SERIOUSLY GOOD STUFF!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Where Did the Summer Go..Again...

I can't believe school starts for both the boys and I in the next couple weeks. Where did summer go? It seems like time flew by so quickly that I really didn't have time to do a lot of anything, but the reality is that is didn't really "fly", I just didn't get a whole heck of a lot done this summer. I guess I need to step up and review my list before the cold weather sets in. Some things MUST get done, like pulling the old wallpaper off the family room, sanding the walls smooth, then priming and painting...along with some of the furniture refinishing projects I have laying around the I am hoping to get a measure of redecorating done.

I have three art classes this semester and I'm really looking forward to all of them. My life drawing is the one class that is making me nervous since I tend to be a perfectionist and want to draw things "right"..having a model to draw from is going to be exciting, but I get caught up in the little things like wanting to get it all correct the first time around. I am going to work on not getting frustrated and being OK with imperfection while I get the process down....I guess that is going to be a challenge, but I think I'm going to really enjoy the opportunity to practice this. I also have another jewelry class and a 2 dimensional design class, which will be fun. I feel fortunate that all the instructors are people that I am really comfortable with. I really wish this was a 4 yr college, I would definitely stay, even with the 50 minute daily commute! I have to work on putting together a portfolio of work in the coming semesters so that I can transfer over to Wichita State University's art department. I want to transfer over to either the printmaking or the painting department. Printmaking (relief or intaglio) is my love, but lately I am finding that I like oil painting too. I'm nowhere near mastering it or even being proficient in it yet, but I really enjoy it. We'll just have to see where the path leads, I guess. I would love to have studio space where I could just spread my stuff out and not have to worry about getting paint and charcoal on my light carpeting..hopefully that comes into fruition this semester.

On my reading shelf this month is "The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken..." I bought this book several months back when I got interested in making my own ravioli and pastas. In a week, my oldest and I are going to Kansas City to learn how to make homemade pasta at the Culinary Center of Kansas City--the same place I went earlier this summer with one of the twins to learn how to make sushi (which we have become sushi making fools around here!)...There are SO many classes that they are offering this Fall that I'd love to take, but alas, the drive in combination with school and home schedules make it impossible to take the really cool classes they offer during the week. A lot of their classes are taught by KC professional chefs, so they are the least busy during the week since Friday-Sat is the big time for restaurants..KCCC does have a couple classes on the weekends that I might take though. I guess I'll have to wait until summers for now. What I like about this book so far is it details not only her quest for the techniques and the recipes that she is craving, it also highlights the fundamental hunger of connections to family. In her case, as in many families, those connections are strained. So far I am only halfway through the book, but am finding that I completely understand where she came from, is coming from and hoping to get back to. I should be finishing the book this week and will give a more in depth review. So far, it's a keeper.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Inspiration and Perspiration

It hit 107*F today.

I knew it was coming, it always does this time of year, but for some reason I was clinging to the denial part pretty heavy. The chickens have NOT been happy about the heat and have been pretty verbal about letting me know they are going on strike until the coop has air conditioning. Yep. It's getting pretty ugly here at Casa Crazylife.

 I am just hanging out in the house waiting for the heat to pass and looking forward to school starting in less than a month. I have 3 classes this semester and they are all art classes, so this is going to be a great semester for creativity.

A series of paintings I am working on of my morning coffee cup. I read of an artist that took the same object and painted it 100 times in different colors and settings. Not sure if I can stay with it for 100 paintings, but I'm having fun with it right now.
I did get to learn a few new things while I've been off for summer break--I took an oil painting class at Wichita Center for the Arts and got to play with oils. I have worked with acrylics and watercolors before, but never oils. I love it!! I have amassed a ton of oil paints and canvas/gessoed boards to paint on and have been trying to do a little painting every day to get myself more familiar with the medium. I have also started collecting a few books to help me along on the subject, which I will introduce over the coming posts. One book that I absolutely adore, but is out of print is "60 Minutes to Better Painting" by Craig Nelson. He has a DVD out which looks to be a really good version of the book also. I bought the book on secondary market and then was shocked to see it skyrocket in price. Hopefully the publisher will reprint the book since it is a great reference. I like the idea of doing LOTS of 60 minute paintings to get proficient and learn what to edit and what to keep.  

At the beginning of the summer Cute Man and the boys got 2 really great raised bed built for me and we discovered that they eat of a huge amount of soil. I think each one took close to 30 bags of peat hummus and top soil to get filled! Finally after we filled them, I went wild planting seeds.

That is where I ran into trouble.

In all the excitement of getting my seeds in the ground, ONE OF US (that'd be ME) didn't mark what was planted there. Did you know that there are a lot of plants that appear to be weeds? Yep. After pulling what turned out to be stuff I planted, I have decided that next year the planting beds will be clearly marked and I won't put so much in them. Cucumbers and melons become monstrosities in no time at all. Plus--when you plant Brandywine or Cherokee Purple tomatoes--PUT CAGES AROUND THEM EARLY!! They grow to be huge and flop over if not supported.

Lessons learned.

The hard way.