So much for being back

We’ve been back home in Atlanta going on six months now and I still can’t seem to find the time to write. I seem to have lost my voice for the moment. A nasty comment on my last post may have affected me more than I want to admit. In any case, my writing self has lain dormant for a while.

The good news: the cats. They couldn’t care less. They have catnip . . .

 … and food.

Never mind that their humans live in a part of the city hell bent on recreating past episodes of the Jerry Springer show for the entertainment of the neighbors. In the six months we’ve lived here, we’ve seen furniture thrown off the porch during a particularly dramatic spat, had to call the cops on a domestic dispute, dealt with teenagers who seem to have mistaken our front yard for their own personal football field, and headed to the back of the house when we heard gunshots.

And I love being here, in Atlanta, my home. I’m cooking again. I’m writing again. I will be back. Thanks for being patient.

Still No Artisan Bread

Dear readers, I regret to say that I lied to you at the end of my last post: “I discovered that you can make good artisan bread with no recipe at all.” 

I’m not sure why I suddenly took on the tone of a Google sidebar ad (“I got white teeth for only $1. Find out how”), but to be fair things did seem to be heading in that direction. What I should have said was a little less glamorous: You need a recipe, but artisan bread isn’t that hard.

Cleo: “Even I can make artisan bread!” (Note: She was whisked from the scene before she got a chance to prove it.)

Thought it isn’t hard, it involves several steps and takes a couple of days to make–which means that recipe testing is taking longer than I originally anticipated. So it will be a while before I can post on this topic.

I’ll be turning to other subjects in my next few posts. In the meantime, though, check out this fabulous site on artisan bread to learn  from someone who actually seems to know something about it.

Hiatus Activity

It’s been a busy few weeks.

The cats have helped me with my crosswords.

Cleo admired Fred’s latest painting.

Fred cooked supper, even involving vegetable matter in the process.

And we visited the family farm in Tennessee.

 

Posting will continue to be sporadic over the next few weeks, as we travel around the country for holidays. I’ve been cooking a lot and hope to share recipes for the holidays soon, but will certainly be back in January.

When You’re Down . . .

I’m just now returning to something resembling normalcy, after an unpleasant bug that kept me out of work for four days and cost an appalling $108 in antibiotics to cure. Fred was out of town leading an arts workshop, so I had only the cats to help out.

Thelma took care of the livestock . . .


. . . while Cleo and Catalina made sure I stayed warm.

Unfortunately their food preparation skills are somewhat limited, and the only thing they caught during the week offered little of nutritional value and even less in the way of presentation.

Needless to say I was thrilled to have Fred back, and look forward to returning to the kitchen this week.

Good-bye, Louise

Our dear cat Louise, featured so often in pages of this blog, died unexpectedly yesterday morning. The vet discovered fluid in her lungs when we took her in Friday afternoon, and by Saturday morning we decided it would be best to have her euthanized. We trust that God is giving her lots of tuna, that she is getting good lap time on a regular basis, that she is chirping happily in a warm sunny spot, and that she is finding many birds and voles to chase–birds and voles that misbehaved horribly in this life, and are getting their just desserts.

But I miss her, my friend and companion of 14 years. She sat on my lap and chirped through a broken engagement, three major moves, a new marriage, and a career change. She was always there to remind me that a creature deserves and therefore should demand love and respect, that naps are a necessary part of life, and that you need to pay attention to the things you love no matter how busy you may be.

Good-bye, Louise.

Six weeks old
With her favorite toy as a kitten

Protecting her human at night
Helping to write the blog

My sweet friend

Best Bread in the World on a Snowy Weekend

Go ahead and mock us Southerners for shutting down over the 6 or so inches of snow that fell here on Saturday. We’re happy to take a sabbath, close up, hunker down, tuck ourselves in and enjoy a pleasant winter day snugged up in our house, baking, reading, and napping.

Cleo, never satisfied just to stay safe in a warm house, mewed so desperately to get out on Saturday that I decided to let her venture forth.

Obviously, she didn’t get far.

And anyway, I don’t understand why anyone would have wanted to leave the house this weekend. I baked like crazy, including this loaf of bread.

The recipe claims that this is the “best bread in the world.” That depends on what you like in a bread, of course. If you like a crusty loaf this one won’t satisfy, but its soft and tender crust makes it perfect for sandwiches. I find its sweet and nutty flavor very appealing.

The recipe is quite forgiving in the portion of wheat to white flour. In fact, I accidentally reversed the portion of white and wheat flour in the original recipe, and I like the change so much I kept it here. 

Best Bread in the World 

Makes 2 loaves

2 cups boiling water
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
1/3 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp. yeast
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp. butter
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 egg yolk plus 1 tsp. water

Pour boiling water over oats in large bowl. Add salt, honey, and butter, and stir. Let stand until softened, butter has melted, and mixture is lukewarm.

Stir yeast into lukewarm water and let it dissolve. (I usually give it a stir until the lumps are gone.) Add to oat mixture. Gradually add flour, stirring with wooden spoon, until a soft ball of dough forms. It should stay together easily when you gather it together with your hands.

Generously flour kneading surface with white flour. I like to use a non-fuzzy cotton towel, like the ones made from flour sacks. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. The instructions say to do this for 10 minutes but it never seems to take me this long. Dough will be ready when it doesn’t “fold” over easily during the kneading process and it springs back in your hands. Don’t clean kneading surface unless required for another task–you will use it one more time.

Oil a large bowl and add dough, turning it to coat with oil on all sides. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Oil 2 loaf pans. Punch down dough and divide in two. Knead each half briefly and shape into loaves. (You can clean your kneading surface now!) Place loafs in pans. Cover and let rise until pans are full. Preheat oven to 350.

Beat egg yolk lightly with the teaspoon of water. Brush surface of each loaf with egg mixture. Bake 35 or 40 minutes.

Turn loaves onto rack and let cool slightly, if you can resist, before slicing. Loaves will freeze well.