Saturday, January 17, 2009
Posted by Kate at 4:30 PM
This past week I've woken up to indoor temperatures in the mid 40s. I've been eating large bowls of hot soup for breakfast, just to try to stay warm as the house heats up somewhat. With a hat and four layers of clothing on, if the house gets up to 60F (15.5C), it starts to feel pretty toasty. We run the heat in only one part of the house, and with temperatures in the single digits (and breezes too) outside, it never gets to what normal people would regard as a normal room temperature, even with several rooms of the house shut off. It was so bad yesterday that I accepted a friend's invitation to go to the mall - I know, the mall! - to keep her company. She was in search of a good deal on a winter coat. I regarded it as a chance to catch up with her, get some indoor walking in, and enjoy a warm building that I wasn't paying to heat. I didn't spend any money, I did get a fair bit of mild exercise, and she was grateful enough for the company to spring for lunch.
Today I couldn't stand the cold anymore. I decided to follow my own advice, and use the oven to stave off hypothermia, and also cook some yummy things. My first thought was to cook one of our few remaining sugar pumpkins. This Afghan recipe sounded great to me, because it required running the oven for more than three hours, while the prep work for the pumpkins took a mere 20 minutes. I've made it before, and it's incredibly good; one of those recipes that tastes far better than can really be inferred from the ingredients list. And since I'd made it before, I already had some of the tomato and ground beef with coriander sauce stashed in the freezer. I've found it's perfectly fine to cut way down on the 3 cups of sugar called for in this dish.
Since the oven was going to be running anyway, bread was also on the agenda. I haven't had sufficient motivation lately to prep any bread dough a day in advance. So today I turned to a short list of breads that can be mixed and baked the same day. The rustic potato bread from Baking with Julia is one such. I've often found that when something is called "rustic" it refers to an endearingly ugly appearance. That certainly holds true with this bread.
It's made with both flour and mashed potatoes. There's so much yeast in it that the proofing and rising times are very short. As it happens, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel with our homegrown potatoes. All I had on hand were some All Blue potatoes. I had no idea what purple potatoes would do to the color of the bread, but I'm always up for culinary experimentation. What do you think? Other than the dark color of the potato skins, I'd never guess there were purple potatoes in this bread.
It's been a good day; a warm day; a day that ended with slices of warm bread and butter. The temperature in the kitchen was in the mid 50s most of the day. I feel positively decadent. I may shed a layer.
(In case you were wondering, the only reason I was able to proof the bread dough in a house this cold is that the heating system we're using is a radiant heat floor. I proof the dough in bowls or on baking sheets resting on the warm floor, covered with towels. A warm floor comes in very handy sometimes.)
Hope you're all keeping warm out there.
Staying Warm with the Thermostat Set Low
Stop Wasting That Heat!