Saturday, November 24, 2007

New familiars

Today is full of new familiars, things that are familiar but have patiently waited as old memories so that they now feel new.

Familiarity Number One is Christmas music. Leigh Nash is back in my life! As a teen I listened to her with Sixpence and coyly sang along to "Kiss Me," but today my favorite song of hers is "Baby It's Cold Outside."

So in the transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas I am listening to new yet old tunes and savoring one of my favorite flavors of this season: cranberries. The mixed berry cranberry sauce I got from Deb at Smitten Kitchen made a delightfully large batch, and even split between Katie and me, is promising to last quite a few more days.

In summary of all things worth giving thanks for, my roomies and I sat down for breakfast together this morning. Pancakes were on the menu with plenty of creamy vanilla yogurt, tangy cranberry sauce, and spicy cinnamon. It was cold and rainy outside, but we were dry and cozy in our apartment with satisfied bellies.

Familiarity Number Two is homemade bread. Though it bears no familiar presence in my own adult kitchen, my childhood kitchen, the one that required a nearby stool to see the countertop, knows the smell and appearance of freshly baked bread well.

My most vivid memories of my mother's amazing bread-making skills are in the land where my brothers, sister, and I drew amused looks for widely opening our mouths to form a long O sound and call out "Mom!" In those years my own culinary curiousity was born. Most likely to distract us from destroying her recipes, my mom/mum occasionally gave my sister and I freedom to experiment on our own in the kitchen. I clearly remember one particular batch of muffins with toothpaste in it!

Maybe that toothpaste flop is the perfect segue into my first ever loaf of bread kneaded, left to rise, and baked all on my lonesome. Not that this was a complete flop, but I'm not declaring gastronomical genius either.

I have much to learn.

For example, barely cutting away at the surface of a doughy loaf before it goes in the oven (with an only semi-sharp knife) probably will not achieve beautiful, true baker-esque slits in the top of my bread. This was probably the greatest flaw in this nervous, exciting endeavor. Somehow, the rest came out deliciously chewy on the inside and with a truly rustic, crusty outside -- fine enough to be eaten with plenty of contented sighs and addicted nibbling.

Thankfully, I am not so discouraged as to push my bread flour and yeast packets to the back of the cupboard. In fact, for now they have a prominent place on the foremost edge of the shelf, where I can more easily and confidently grab them to knead away academic frustration as the last two weeks of classes slip away.

Now...I really can't stay/I've got to go away/this evening has been so very nice...

[To find my bread recipe, visit Smitten Kitchen here and scroll down to the Rustic White Bread.]


brealrosey said...

not bad my dear for a novice bread maker. oh to knead the bread! this is indeed one of my very favorite things in the world. it is also a joy to bake and give: bake 2 loaves, keep one and give the other away. see you soon!

Rachael said...

Well done, darling! I thought I could smell it baking from here...just because I'd love to imagine sharing a slice with you.

Lael said...

B: I cannot wait to see you. And I'm so glad to discover that I like the kneading part because I have no fancy dough hook to help me along anyway!

Mom: I will try to control myself while I'm home, but I may be almost as excited about being in your kitchen as I am about seeing you!