Saturday, January 17, 2009

Brrrr! Baking Weather!

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.

Related posts:

Staying Warm with the Thermostat Set Low
Stop Wasting That Heat!


Tracy said...

Homemade bread is heavenly. It never lasts very long in my house though! :)

Anonymous said...

Your bread looks great! I love a rustic loaf. It always has the best texture. Stay warm!

Hknisley said...

I wish I had your fortitude! Our 1st floor has been running between 35-45 and I just haven't wanted to do anything! Let alone cooking! We've been grabbing anything that doesn't need preparation and running back to the space heater in the bedroom. lol
Sending warm thoughts your way!

Anonymous said...

That bread looks lovely - I love your blog :)

Kate said...

Tracy, Jan, Heather and Laura, thanks for stopping by. Heather, I know just what you mean about scurrying through the cold parts of the house to retreat to the warm room. I just finally decided that I would get some baking done so the kitchen would be warm enough that I could enjoy being in it for a while. Sort of a chicken and egg thing, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Kate, your bread looks great and would love to make some. What recipe did you use.

Kate said...

DiElla, the recipe is a little long to type up, and I'd run into copyright issues if I typed the whole thing up. So I'll just tell you where you can find it. It appears in the cookbook Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan. It's an excellent book on baking both sweet things and yeasted breads, very helpful for the amateur home baker or wannabe baker. The recipe is near the front of the book, Rustic Potato Loaves. Look for it at the library before you decide whether to buy it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the whole chilly house thing has actually led to chillblains, of all things for careful of your extremities (i.e. fingertips)! And I was WONDERING how you'd get your bread to rise in such temperatures! I've been doing the same thing...warming bowls up over the heating vents...but I also use the oven with just its light on (I don't have a woodstove)...just enough warmth to keep things going.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and I've been reading back into the archives until I found this post! Could you share the bread recipe, please?

Kate said...

Gracia, I wish I could. As I mentioned to DiElla, the recipe would be quite long to type up, and there might be copyright issues if I did. But you can look for it through your library in the book Baking with Julia. It's a great book, by the way.