Bread is love

Bread may fall in and out of nutritional favor—but there’s nothing quite like the sight, smell and taste of a freshly baked loaf.

I’ve been baking bread for about 30 years now. I own my mother’s Amish bread bowl and my grandmother’s battered bread pans. So when I bake bread, I feel connected to them through a time-honored ritual we shared.

Many people think bread is difficult to make. It isn’t. With a few simple ingredients and about four hours of home time, I can have a beautiful, fragrant loaf, or even multiple loaves, on my table.

Bread machines, while an undeniable convenience, still require your presence at the start and finish. And, in my opinion, bread made by hand makes a superior finished product. Hand kneaded dough creates a lighter, softer texture and a more tender crust.

There’s also something soothing about the feel of warm pliable dough beneath my hands, the soft swishing sound of it pressing against the counter and picking up flour as I fold and press, fold and press. The rhythm lulls me into being fully in the moment. And the subtle sweet-sour aroma as the yeast does its magic makes me anticipate that tantalizing fragrance of just-baked bread filling the house.

Best of all is serving fresh bread to people you care about—I invite you to share the (bread) love.

Simple White Bread

3 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

A package of dry yeast

1 cup warm water

3 tablespoons oil

In a large bowl, put half the flour, the salt, sugar and yeast. Warm the water to between 120 – 130 degrees Fahrenheit) and mix it in with the dry ingredients. Add the oil. Mix well with wooden spoon, adding flour until a loose ball of dough forms. Dump dough onto a floured surface, and knead for about 8 minutes adding more flour as needed. Oil bowl, place dough in bowl and turn once, coating it. Cover and let rise until doubled in size (about an hour). Punch down dough and let rest for 15 minutes, covered. Then punch down again and shape into a loaf. Place into a greased loaf pan or onto a baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 40 minutes). Bake at 375 degrees. Cool on wire rack. Makes one loaf.

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Unearth the flavor with dried porcini mushrooms

I discovered them at my local farmer’s market. A vendor sold me the first batch of crinkly dried porcini mushrooms while sharing tips on how to use them.

So I went home and played in the kitchen. First, I poured hot water over a handful of them, let them soften, chopped them fine and added them to a cheese omelet. Delish!

I added them to Alfredo sauce served with homemade pasta. Delizioso!

Then, I poured the soaking liquid into a batch of vegetable soup, along with another handful of dried mushrooms— transforming it from ordinary to extraordinary. Mushroom flavored broth gave the soup a nutty richness that convinced me this ingredient belongs in my pantry.

Perhaps you’ll add it to yours?

Happy eating!

Here’s a link about how to use dried mushrooms from Bon Appétit

http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/how-to-cook-with-dried-porcini-mushrooms

Porcini Mushroom Sauce recipe from Epicurious:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Porcini-Mushroom-Sauce-102883

Fun facts from MushroomAppreciation. Com

http://www.mushroom-appreciation.com/porcini-mushrooms.html

Beautiful Pesto

I started basil plants from seed this year. So for the past couple of months, I’ve been using fresh basil to season everything from pasta to salads. This week, I dressed homemade fettuccini with fresh pesto and it was so delicious and satisfying; I wanted to post the recipe here.

Pesto

Handful of lightly browned pine nuts

One very large bunch of basil leaves

One clove of chopped garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredient s in a food processor until mealy.

Add about ½ cup of good olive oil, in batches. Stir in about ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese.

Add to warm pasta and combine. Enjoy with extra cheese, if desired.