June 03, 2013

Baking and Breathing

I have been stressed out for two weeks.  With a dying family member, large-scale event planning, a major backyard renovation involving the removal and/or relocation of trees and gardens, and physical and mental preparations for my upcoming hernia operation - I feel like Mombie.

When I'm really busy, I ignore myself and my friends and focus only on my immediate family and what I need to get done day by day.  Some days this means that I neglect to eat and drink enough.  I ignore my body's signals because I'm an idiot.  I'm not proud of this; it's just been the pattern my entire life. The only good news here is that I lost the eight pounds that I put on this winter after guzzling too much wine and pigging out on garbaggio (smoked oysters, salsa and nacho chips, loaded baked potato chips, brie and camembert with red pepper jelly and fancy crackers etc).  I haven't been eating enough due to stress and poor time management and I am going to change that this week!  Enough about me though.  Let's talk bread!

Today we are going to a neighbour's gathering - Champagne, Crackers and a Chin-wag.  Said neighbour has invited all the fun neighbours (every house abutting and across from them).

I am bringing bread because I have been asked to do so.  I was initially overwhelmed by the request, because I have a lot going on, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that baking bread is exactly what I should do to save what remains of my sanity.

I am attempting to bake Oatmeal Bread.   



From the New Canadian Basics Cookbook, it's also known as Maritime, Porridge or Rolled Oats Bread.  I like an oatmealy texture -- it's dense and delicious.  My only concern with this recipe is the baking part. ha.

I am going to substitute maple syrup for the molasses (mine expired in 2011!) and do half white flour and half whole wheat.

Here's my yeast proofing.



I think I should have proofed it in a bowl instead of a measuring cup; when I dumped the yeast into the oatmeal mixture, there were some granules that hadn't yet dissolved.  No biggie.  Lesson learned.

I mixed in the flour, kneaded the dough by hand for 8 minutes, oiled a bowl and tossed it in. I rolled the ball around in the bowl to evenly coat it with vegetable oil (and prevent it from becoming hard and dry).




I'm going to let the bread rise now and tell you about my yard sale adventure.

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I have been a diehard garage saler for twenty years and I LOVE IT.  Garage "sailing" is one of life's great joys.

Earlier this morning, the only item on my list was a reel mower.  I sold my old mower in a yard sale three years ago and I regret it to this day.

Well guess what?  I found one! When I spied it, I began to pant heavily (hahhah! that sounds wrong but I'm leaving it in).  I tried the mower out on the seller's lawn and it would barely move, never mind cut grass.

"What's wrong with it?"

"It's been neglected; it needs oil, a cleaning and a sharpening.  It's ten dollars".

I responded: "Do you know how much these things cost to get sharpened?"

I didn't say it to be a peeve, but the owner was definitely irritated.  Back-pedalling, I immediately told her about the time I had my old mower sharpened.  I had been puttering in the house and the sound of a bell tinkling outside got my attention.  It grew louder and louder and I went out to see if I could find the source.  I saw an old wise-guy tooling around in a red pickup.  I registered the wooden sign on top - "SHARPENING" - and I think I was taken in by the nostalgia of it, because five minutes later I found myself paying the shyster $40 for approximately 4 minutes of "sharpening".  At least I can laugh about it now.

Her response to my tale : " How about $5.00?"

I thought about it for about 30 seconds and told her I'd take it for five.  I pushed the mower to the van, brought it home and put RB to work.  He spent 15 minutes outside with it, came into the house and told me that he thought I'd be happy.  I'll let you know how it goes. I'm going to go try it out now.

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I can't tell you about the mower right now because I'm too annoyed. I'll save that for later.

Here's the bread:




The monster has grown. Let's remove that towel!

Ta-da!




Now to punch that baby down! ---  shplat.  I like punching the bread down; it makes me feel tough.


Time to shape it into loaves.  



I know, I know.  They're ugly.  What's with all those scratchy, fingerprinty marks? I must work on the shaping of the loaves.  These look pathetic really. Were they made by a toddler? The next time I bake, I am going to try to make them prettier.

Here they are 45 minutes later (after the second rise):



Before putting the bread in the oven, I brushed one of the loaves with a lightly beaten egg and left one plain (according to the recipe, the egg is optional). I wanted to see the difference after baking. 



And thanks to the marvels of technology, here it is.  The egg-washed loaf is the one on the right.  I think it looks more professional and as all of you know, I am nothing if not a consummate professional.



Oh and about the lawn mower.  For now, it's enough for you to know that my mower rips my grass rather than cutting it.  It is also hard to push.  It made me swear.  At least the bread worked out.

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Addendum, June 10th.  Good news.  We got suckered again:



This time, I paid $30 for 10 minutes --- an improvement!  And now the mower works like a charm.  Not bad for a $35 investment.