Mike was off doing other things, but when he came home, he made each of us a Spanish coffee. It's a tradition on winter days. We were celebrating the Winter Solstice.
That was enough to cause me to snuggle up under a quilt with Sadie and take a long winter's nap.
When I woke up, I was in a mood to try some more bread-baking. I'm still planning to make my way through the Bread Baker's Apprentice, but if I follow the formulas in alphabetical order, as they are listed in the book, the next one up is bagels. I didn't bake these, although I hope to bake some like these some day, minus the sesame seeds and poppy seeds, of course. We just say "no" to seeds of all kinds here at the Three Cats Ranch.
So, if one can circle quilts in anticipation of their difficulty, one can also circle bread dough. That's where I am with the bagels right now...circling. Never have I made a bagel. Never have I seen one made. I know that boiling is involved. Now, leave me in peace while I gird up my loins.
Instead, I decided to try something else. On the bread baking Facebook groups I've been following, folks are making the most beautiful no-knead breads. They are baked in cast iron Dutch ovens. After making the Crusty Cranberry Walnut Bread several years back (and again recently), I purchased this book:
Yesterday, I decided to try his basic loaf. It was made from 3 cups of bread flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast, and 1 1/3 cups of water. When that was all mixed up, it looked like this.
A few Christmas's ago, Erik and Mae gave me a proofing box from Brod & Taylor. (You can read about it right here.) In our cold climate, it creates a little warm sanctuary for bread to rise. I can't always use it because the container I'm using to proof the bread sometimes doesn't fit (for example, a rimmed baking sheet is too large). Generally, I'm using my large Pyrex bowl or else a loaf pan when I'm using the proofing box. This particular dough was supposed to proof for 18 hours...through the night when the furnace is turned down low. Definitely, this was a job for the proofing box.
Well, the dough was stiff and hard to mix, and there was barely enough water to moisten 3 cups of bread flour. When I got up and checked it this morning, it looked like this:
You might be saying to yourself, "That looks exactly like the 'before' picture." And you would be right...it IS the same picture. Ha! You guys are too smart. I can't fool you. Anyway...it wouldn't have mattered. Even if I'd taken an actual "after" picture, the result would have been the same. The only difference was that now, there were dry lumps of flour poking through the skin that had formed on the dough. There was no way I was going to put that lump of dried up play-dough in the oven.
Undaunted, I decided to try again. After perusing some of the other recipes in the book, I decided to use the same amount of flour, but twice as much yeast, and a little more water. This morning's mixture looks better distributed. Also, I put it in a large glass pyrex measuring cup so that I could measure whether it had risen.
Now, I'm back to giving it another 18-24 hours to rise. According to the book's author, the fermentation time is everything for this bread, and provides it with its flavor. We'll see. If it fails again, I might donate the book on my next Goodwill run.
So there you have it. A relaxing day of nothing accomplished...although I did get my hair cut, so that's something. Today promises to be much of the same. I'll get a head start on our family dinner for Saturday. A few things can be done ahead. Otherwise, it's going to be a day much like yesterday...very little accomplished other than a healthy dose of relaxation.