Tag Archives: bread

Georgia is amazing

2

Maybe I should start with a clarification, since for most people the first Georgia they think of is the state, and actually I’m in Georgia the country, which is in the Caucuses. You may be most familiar with Georgia from its 2008 conflict with Russia, but that’s long over and it’s really entirely safe and also entirely lovely. I’m actually here with my parents, which is an added bonus since I don’t get to see them all that often. My dad was here already for work and my mum and I arrived Sunday night (local time, which is 8 hours ahead of Toronto), after 24 hours of travelling.

So, we’re at the end of our third day now and I swear we’ve only stopped walking long enough to eat since we got here, and we’re exhausted. Tomorrow, we have to get a 5 a.m. taxi to Yerevan, where we’ll spend another three days. The Internet is good, there, though, so even though I’m about to fall asleep, here’s a point-form tour of Tbilisi (with pictures).

1. They love statues here. Seriously, they are everywhere. Little, big, copper, gold, stone, whatever, they’ve got it all. My favourites, though, are the little ones that run along Rustavelli (one of the big main streets). These statues stand/sit every ten metres or so along both sides of the lovely wide sidewalks. They’re all different, but here are a couple of my favourites.

This statue has a little bottle of something. Beer or juice, you decide.

This little statue went hunting (his gun is just peaking out over his shoulder) and he got himself a duck.

2. Khachapuri is everywhere. Remember when I made it? Well, it turns out there are a ton of different ways to make it, and they have entire restaurants that serve it, and it’s considered a regular course in a traditional meal. Seriously, Georgians know how to do bread and cheese.

We watched them make it through the window.

Khachapuri with egg.

Khachapuri with cheese on top.

Khachapuri with cheese inside.

3. They also love walnuts here – I even had walnut ice cream the other day – and dried fruit. As a vegetarian, I was a little worried about what I might end up eating, but at least in Georgia, I have been eating as well as anyone (which is to say, very well indeed).

So that’s regular fruit in the middle, fruit leather on the shelves, and the things that look like dried sausages are actually a kind of fruit juice candy.

4. They’re also big on wool, and although I haven’t seen any knitting/crocheting or related shops, gauzy felted wool scarves and thick felted wool hats are everywhere, as are wool carpets.

Carpets for sale on a wall next to a (very narrow) street in the old city.

Repairing an old carpet.

Hats and scarves for sale.

5. Georgians are very religious (Georgian Orthodox, primarily) and churches are everywhere. Today was went to Mtskheta (pronounced Moo-stek-ah, more or less), which was the original capital of Georgia. The cathedral there was built in the 11th century and remains in use. Besides that, there are churches all over the place (you turn a corner and run into a church) and they are all built in more or less the same style. They’re quite beautiful, really.

Cathedral in Mtskheta.

6. They do weddings on a huge scale. We got to go to a Georgian wedding and we’re all still recovering. We were invited by my dad’s colleague Irakli (one of the nicest men ever) and it was a once in a lifetime experience. Needless to say, it was amazing, and merits its own post, as do many, many other things about Georgia, but maybe you should come visit to see for yourself? (I really will try to post on the wedding, though, it was amazing.)

7. Not about Georgia, really, but oh well. Colour Affection is zipping right along thanks to all of this travelling. I got a ton done on the plane and I’m one row shy of completing the two-colour striped section, which means I’ll be into the short rows during the drive tomorrow and I can’t wait. Here’s how it’s looking so far.

Stripes are so satisfying.

Advertisements

Bread Check

2

Remember how I said I was going to start making bread on the regular? Well, so far so good. I would guess that I make about 60% of our bread (this is an average because L eats way more bread than I do and buys bread to keep at the lab; I eat almost entirely homemade bread, unless I’m feeling lazy and then I just go to the bakery), which is not too bad.

Mostly I’ve been making the overnight, no-knead French loaf, which is a really easy staple as long as I’m on the ball enough to plan ahead.

I tried something a little different the last time I made this and substituted a half cup of flour for a half cup of flax meal. It added a really nice nutty sort of flavour and still rose beautifully.

But, because there are mornings when I get up to discover all the bread has disappeared overnight (or something), and I need bread for something before tomorrow, I’ve started trying some other recipes (as I said I would). I bought a very nice bread pan (tin?), and the first right-now loaf I made was Honey Wheat Bread, which is an easy and delicious loaf for sandwiches and whatever else you might use bread for.

Not bad for a first attempt, I thought. And not too sweet, either.

The recipe is for two loaves, but I only have one pan (for now), so I halved it thusly:
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
2-2.5 cups all-purpose flour (I actually ended up using just under 2 cups)

I followed all the other directions as-written, except, obviously, dividing the dough into two equal portions. The results were awesome, but I will have to work on my rolling technique in the future, as I ended up with a large air pocket just under the upper crust. Otherwise, though, I cannot recommend this recipe highly enough. Next up, I think, will be this Light Wheat Bread, which takes a little longer, so it will have to be made on a day when I’m kicking around the house.

After that, I’m not sure. What are your bread standbys? Any chance you have a great raisin bread recipe you wouldn’t mind sharing?

Bread Dilemma

1
French bread

That’s what we’ve been having here in the last month or so. It all started because I work afternoons/evenings, and thus I pack a lunch dinner to eat at my desk. Because I’m a little lazy, this means I eat a lot of sandwiches at work. Don’t get me wrong – I love sandwiches. I love sandwiches so much (and especially grilled cheese sandwiches) that my sisters joke that I’m not a vegetarian, I’m a bread-and-cheese-atarian. I take exception to this, because I eat fewer grilled cheeses than people think. Anyway, that’s all an aside. Basically, I eat a sandwich for dinner almost every day and therefore, I like to at least have good ingredients, such as bakery bread, to use. There is only so many times you can use grocery store bread before you start dreading dinner.

So, I started buying bread from the bakery around the corner (there are are more bakeries within 30 seconds of us than is healthy). It was delicious bread, so we ate it quickly, so we bought more, so bread expenses went up. For me, this was okay, a sort of business expense, if you will. For L, it was extravagant (he eats dinners at home, after all). Anyway, we talked about it and I offered to start making bread, which would mean I still go nice bread for my sandwiches, but it would be far less expensive. I was raring to go and then L bought two loaves of bread in a row, so it was a bit of a false start.

French bread

I have not managed to take a picture of a full loaf. They just don't last long enough.

Nonetheless, we’re back on track now and I’ve made three loaves of bread this week. One was a housewarming gift for Wendy and her boyfriend (don’t worry, we don’t eat that much bread), but the other two were for us, and both turned out very well. I plan to experiment and try some new recipes, but for now my go-to is a no-knead, night-rising French bread that is too good not to share – I mean, this bread pretty much makes itself, you just have to plan ahead.

No-Knead French Bread
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1.25 tsp salt
1.5 cups water

Mix everything together in a big bowl until it resembles a wet, shaggy, sticky dough (you will know what I mean when you see it). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and  let it rise for 12 or so hours (I make it before bed, but you could just as easily make it before work in the morning).
Punch it down, cover it back up, and let it rise for another two hours or so.
About a half hour before baking, heat a dutch oven (that is, a solid – NOT glass – dish with a lid) at 425-450F until fully warm (I just leave it in there for a half hour because that’s easier). Turn dough into warm dish (no greasing or flouring necessary) and bake with the lid on for a half hour and then with the lid off for 15 minutes.
Bingo. Bread.

I am convinced that this recipe cannot be messed up. I’ve let the dough rise for 48 hours; I once had dough that didn’t rise properly (not enough water), so I punch it down and let it rise for another day and it was fine; I’ve baked it at 350 instead of 450 and even though it took a little longer, it was still fine. Seriously. If you have never made bread but are curious about it, this is your gateway bread.

Daffodil

The unfortunate quality of this photo is courtesy of my phone. Nonetheless, a daffodil! In full bloom! In March!

Also, there are daffodils out. In March. What the heck is going on here? I keep trying to not get my hopes up that winter is really and truly over (I’ve been disappointed by March before), but I don’t know. Daffodils. That’s really something.

Tomato Soup bliss

1
Not Campbell's soup.

Not Campbell's soup.

For years, thanks to Campbell’s, I thought I hated tomato soup. Then I went to Europe. When I was backpacking through Austria, tomato soup was one of the most reliably vegetarian and cheap items on the menu, so, in the spirit of trying new things and eating on the cheap, I tried it. Well, it turns out those Austrians know a thing or two about making incredible soup. I ate pretty much nothing else the entire time I was there (well, that and bread and cheese, of course).

Anyway, when I got back to Canada I set out to try and find a reliably good tomato soup recipe. So far, I haven’t found anything as good as the Austrian soup (I should say, though, that it’s just as delicious and consistent in Switzerland, so maybe there’s a skiing connection?), but I do have a couple of good ones to fall back on.

My first foray into tomato soup making was four years ago via the New York Times. It was right around the time they started their ‘Recipes for Health’ series, and they posted a recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup. It is delicious (although I always use stock, not water), but it can be pretty time consuming to roast and peel all those tomatoes. I also ruined several baking sheets before I realized I could use a pyrex dish just as effectively.

Lately, though, I’ve been mixing it up. First was that Georgian Tomato Soup with Walnuts and Vermicelli, which was very rich and meaty-tasting, despite being completely vegetarian. Anyway, when I had friends over for dinner on Saturday I thought about making that again, but since I was also going to make the Khachapuri, I thought I should at least change up the soup. So, I went looking for a new recipe.

I scanned through a lot before settling on The Kitchn’s Cream of Tomato Soup. It wasn’t too time consuming (good if you’re having people over) and sounded like it might get me in the neighbourhood of my European dream soup. I used tomato passato instead of canned tomatoes – there are fewer preservatives and, for a pureed soup, it makes for a very smooth texture – and since I didn’t have any dried basil I just subbed in some dried oregano; I also left out the celery, because I didn’t have any. Delicious, and a perfect match for the Khatchapuri – who doesn’t love tomato soup and something grilled cheese-esque?

Cream of Tomato Soup

Cream of Tomato Soup

I didn’t take pictures on Saturday, but it was so good and there weren’t any leftovers, so I made it again today. In the meantime, I bought some basil, so I used that and dried oregano. I also added a swizzle of olive oil, a little bit of honey, and some leftover (frozen) puréed Marzano tomatoes (ostensibly pizza sauce). For a richer taste, I think 35% cream would be ideal, but we only had 1% milk, so I used that. Anyway, if you’re in the mood for an easy and very yummy soup, add this one to your repertoire.

This soup is even faster if you have stock on-hand. I usually try to make big batches so I have some in the freezer when I feel like soup.

Reliable Veggie Stock
2 sticks of celery, washed and chopped into big pieces
2 large carrots, washed and peeled and roughly chopped
2 onions, quartered
2 med. potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 apple, washed and chopped (just cut around the core)
5 or 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 or so pepper corns
3 bay leaves
12 cups of water

Put everything into a big pot and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for an hour or so. Strain and you’re finished! Use it warm right away or cool completely and then freeze.
To give it more body, I recommend adding mushrooms (or, just the stems, if you have them – just make sure to wash them well).

Fake Spring Weather/Real Spring Cleaning (and cooking!)

2

It is a gorgeous day in Toronto – about 7C and sunny – and L and I just went for a lovely walk around the neighbourhood (we brought a disc instead of a camera, though, because he wanted to toss a bit in the park). I am so ready for winter to be over that, in my mind, it already is. This weather just proves it, right? L, who doesn’t want me to be disappointed when the March storms inevitably roll in, was more tempered in his enthusiasm, but still, even Fake Spring feels pretty nice.

And, whether the season is fake or real, the cleaning it inspired over the weekend is unquestionable.

The nicest it's ever looked.

The nicest it's ever looked.

Look at how tidy my work space is! I didn’t take a before shot because, frankly, it was too embarrassing. There were half-unpacked boxes stacked there, with bags and shoes piled around in front, and it was so bad that my rolling chair was reduced to basically a swivel. But, on Saturday L got a new dresser, which meant his old one could be used for organization (can you believe a grown man used a dresser that small?). The top two drawers have been designated for our hats, mitts/gloves, and scarves, but I claimed the bottom drawer for knitting-related items, and have also gained an office surface on top. The basket is currently holding needles, notions, and other odds and sods, while my pattern books are stacked beside it and, on the shelf above those, my to-be-read pile (you can see my knitting – Almondine sock number 2, of which more later – on the desk at the edge of the photo). It may never look this neat again, but I’m very pleased with it.

Besides cleaning and organizing, this weekend involved lots of cooking, which I love. On Saturday we had friends over for dinner and I made some Georgian food, inspired by my parents’ Grub Club (monthly dinner club they’ve have going with friends for over a decade). I made Bostneulis Kharcho (tomato soup with walnuts and vermicelli) and Khachapuri (bread baked with cheese inside.

This soup looked much better in person.

This soup looked much better in person.

The lighting in my kitchen is a little iffy, but you get the idea. Both recipes were incredibly simple, but had rather impressive results, and I would highly recommend them – both are from The Georgian Feast by Darra Goldstein.

Khachapuri – all puffed up and fresh out of the oven.

Khachapuri – all puffed up and fresh out of the oven.

L, Carmen and Sam playing boardgames after dinner.

L, Carmen and Sam playing boardgames after dinner.

Boardgames!

Boardgames!

Yes, this is just the sort of Saturday night I like.