Friday, August 15, 2008

A Baking Day in the Middle of August

I'd pretty much given up on any serious baking, other than an occasional pizza, for the summer. But our stores of no-knead bread have been getting very low. Very low indeed. And my favorite tomato sauce requires high temperature roasting. The tomatoes are poised to come in hot and heavy this month. So this past weekend, I checked the weather forecast. I was stunned to see that a high temperature of only 70 was forecast for Monday. Hot damn! That's baking weather. My agenda for Monday was set.

I geared up big time for a marathon baking day, and it was so much work that it's taken me this long to recover sufficiently to tell you about it. On Sunday I made two pie crusts for quiche, and prepped five pounds' worth of Moonblush cherry tomatoes. I also mixed up two double batches of my multigrain no-knead dough. 101 Cookbook's special zucchini bread recipe and apple butter cake were also on the agenda, so I juiced six lemons and converted half of the peels into zest and the other half into candied peels. These organic lemons had been sitting around long enough, and I knew I'd need the zest for baking. The juice got frozen via the ice cube tray trick. All this prep set me up well for Monday.

After folding and letting the no-knead bread rise, I fired up the oven at 9 am on Monday morning. The oven was on continuously until 5 pm, and except for short periods when I needed to change the temperature of the oven, it was never empty. While the bread baked, I prepped the Special Zucchini Bread, modifying the recipe willy-nilly to suit what ingredients I had on hand. As soon as the last two loaves of bread came out of the oven, in went the two loaves of zucchini bread. Then I prepped a batch of roasted tomato sauce with the beefsteak and Roma tomatoes that are now ripening in the garden. While that cooked, I washed the zucchini bread residue off the loaf pans and prepped the apple butter cakes. I cut up some of our sugar pumpkins from the garden, trimmed them, and then put the slices in the oven for a long slow bake as soon as the apple butter cakes were out. These were destined for our dinner of kaddo bourani, a succulent Afghan recipe I once enjoyed at Helmand restaurant in San Francisco. I had waited years to try this recipe. I was able to pre-bake the quiche shells while the pumpkin cooked, since the oven temperature was compatible. While the quiche shells cooled and the pumpkin did its thing, I prepared two different sauces to go with the pumpkins: a ground beef and tomato sauce and a garlicky minted yogurt sauce. I also pureed the roasted tomatoes and canned the sauce, then assembled the two quiches to be ready for the oven when the pumpkin came out.

Aside from the bread, everything I prepared contained ingredients that I had grown myself or in some way been involved in procuring directly. Here's a list of food that was "processed" to make it store longer:

Roasted Tomato Sauce:
tomatoes and garlic from the garden

Zucchini bread:
zucchini from the garden
gleaned, hand-shelled hickory nuts
eggs from our laying hens
homemade vanilla extract
homemade candied lemon peel

Kaddo Bourani:
sugar pumpkin, garlic, and tomatoes from the garden
Part of a chuck roast bought on sale and ground up at home

Apple butter cake:
apple butter made last fall from our homegrown apples
eggs from our laying hens

homegrown cherry tomatoes (converted into Moonblush tomatoes)
homegrown rainbow chard
homemade pie crust
eggs from our laying hens

We finally sat down to dinner around 7:30. I was exhausted! You'll have to take my word that the kaddo bourani was sublime and very filling, because by that time I was too hungry and tired to waste time snapping pictures. But dinner tasted better knowing that I had four loaves of my multigrain bread, two loaves of zucchini bread, two apple butter cakes, two quiches, and three quarts of canned roasted tomato sauce to show for my efforts. Plus plenty of leftovers from dinner. The freezer was well stocked, and I knew we wouldn't run out of bread until cooler weather arrives. I went to bed early with an enormous feeling of satisfaction at having put so much of our garden produce to good use.


Claire said...

Good for you! Very smart to do it all on one cool day. I do the same thing, though it's for stuff we use all the time, so I can't usually wait for a cool day. In one day I make two loaves of our sandwich bread, granola bars, granola for breakfast, and whatever else needs to be baked that week - meatballs, cookies, etc. It's the most efficient way, and it's so nice to get it out of the way!

Kate said...

Does any of your stuff freeze? I've found that if the no-knead bread is frozen the day it's baked (but after thoroughly cooled) it's perfectly fine. I stocked up on something like ten loaves of bread in late spring this year. But we were still almost out.

It is nice to get large chunks of work out of the way in those marathon sessions. Tiring, but satisfying.

Claire said...

Unfortunately, we don't have a separate freezer - only the one that's attached to our fridge, so baking large amounts of bread and freezing it isn't a great option for us. I do freeze some of it, like if I make the bread before we actually need it.

We're slowly moving a much less-meat diet though, so as the meat moves out of the freezer, I think we'll have more space for freezing baked goods.

Kate said...

Ah, yes. I was forgetting for a moment that not everyone has a chest freezer. See how myopic I can be? The chest freezer certainly does make it easy to stock up on good sales, and put away baked goods and some vegetables. I know not everyone has the space for one. We've only had ours for about a year and a half. I sure love it and take it for granted at the same time. I should be more mindful. Maybe there's a post in that idea...