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Someone should care, maybe not you....

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40+ year old former teacher, linguist, interrogator, soldier, and lastly convict. We all do stupid things every once and awhile. I am an economic conservative and a firm believer in civil rights. Starting a new life now and frankly not sure what I am going to be doing.

28 November 2006

Cooking again.....

As the Thanksgiving Day celebration rolled around I knew it was time to cook again. I though for awhile I would do the big deal, the BIRD. But my father decided he would do it as he enjoys cooking the turkey. There had been sort of a plan among us siblings that we would do the cooking and let the parents relax, but hey, if he wants to continue making great turkey, that is fine by me. I was of course making Sima, which I have written about and described before. (Here) It also came about that I would do bread. And not just any bread, a special bread that had become a tradition in our family since we lived in Finland for a year back in the late 60s. I had always heard it called Swiss Braid. (which really makes no sense at all when one thinks about it since it was a Finish bread but hey, it is my memory.) The recipe book calls it Pulla, a yeast coffee bread. Ingredients are as follows:
1 package active dry yeast; ½ cup warm water; 2 cups milk, scalded then cooled to lukewarm; 1 cup (or less) sugar; 1 teaspoon slat; 7-8 whole cardamom pods, seeded and crushed(about 1 teaspoon); 4 eggs beaten; 8-0 cups flour (sifted)1/2 cup melted butter.

Then there is a glaze that goes on top that is 1 egg beaten, and you can add sliced or chopped almonds and crushed lump sugar if you wish.

To begin, you dissolve the yeast in the warm water, then stir in the milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs, and enough flour to make a batter, (about 2 cups)You should beat this until the batter is smooth and elastic then add three more cups of flour and continue beating untl it is smooth and glossy in appearance. Now is when you add the melted butter. (I have been told that adding it with the other ingredients will pretty much ruin the bread) Continue beating the dough until it is again glossy then add the remaining flour and stir it in until a stiff dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, cover and let rest for 15 minutes. (I guess it is tired after being beaten smooth and glossy) Then you knead it until it is smooth and satiny. (I beat the fool out of it. kneading bread dough is fun) Now you put the dough into a lightly greased mixing bowl turning it so both sides are greased, cover let rise in a warm place for about an hour. It should about double in bulk. Then you beat it down and let it rise again for about half an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and divide into three parts, divide each of these into three parts too. (Math quiz, without using your fingers or going back to re read the sentence, how many parts do you have now?)
Roll each of the parts into a strip about 16 inches long by rolling between the hands and the board. Braid three of the parts into a loaf and repeat until all parts are gone and you have three loaves. Place on a baking sheet, cover and let rise for about 20 minutes. Glaze with the eggs and sprinkle the almonds and sugar onto if you wish. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes. Take out when they are a light golden brown.

Now my variations, I used more cardamom on the advice of my mother who said 1 teaspoon was not nearly enough. I used about three. (She thought I should have used more) When my mother made this she has always made it as a double layered loaf, a bigger braid with a smaller braid on top. I tried this too. It takes longer to cook and in my case the top got a bit too dark to look perfect but it still tasted good. Now, my almost disaster with this came about because I am: A. unemployed and poor, and B. a cheapskate. Thus I don’t use the heat in my house. (Hi welcome, come it, Here’s a coat for you) I do have a wood burning stove that I fired up as I was making this but didn’t make a very big fire. Thus when it came time for the dough to raise my house was too cold and it just sat there. I built the fire up big but by then it was too late. It was time for dinner and the bread was still flat. (CURSES!) I carried the dough with me to the parents’ house where it finished rising and I cooked it after dinner and it was very good. But after is not the same as with dinner. (GRUMP!) Luckily we did have some rolls so there was bread with the dinner anyway.

At any rate, here I what it looked like.


Blogger Adrian said...

Why does this blog ALWAYS leave me feeling hungry??


4:50 PM  
Blogger Miranda said...

Sure looks good to me!

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been told that adding [butter] with the other ingredients will pretty much ruin the bread

This is the opposite of the gravy principle. In sauces, you want to put the starch in with the oil first, before water (milk, etc) so that it doesn't get lumpy. The fat coats the starch granules to keep it from being lumpy.

For bread batter, on the other hand, you want it the other way around. You want to starch to stick for the kneading to develop the gluten and give the bread its toughness and texture. Put in the fat before this happens, and you can't develop the gluten. It stays in little particles.

Biscuits are the same idea the other way around yet again. They're supposed to be soft and light, not chewy. So, you don't knead them. You cut the fat (shortening or butter) right into the flour and work it as little as possible to avoid developing the gluten. (And true Southerners keep low-protein biscuit flour on hand so that there's less gluten to start with.)

1:46 PM  
Blogger exMI said...

Well thank you annon, now I know more about cooking. It is good to learn. :)

6:44 AM  

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