Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mystery KAL

Somehow I came across a mystery knit along (KAL) which piqued my interest. I love knitted toys and after seeing the designer's website, especially the knitted kitty, I jumped in. Knitted toys are just cute little projects that are pretty quick. Not quite instant gratification but progress comes quickly. Some might think they're fussy projects because they're so small and usually on small needles but I disagree. This is my first Mystery KAL and it's kinda fun so far! Each week a "clue" (section of pattern) is released and all week long participants try to guess what it's going to be. (For the record I'm going with monkey.) I started and finished this first section on the 4th. That's pretty quick for me. Four "clues" to the pattern so this is a month-long project. I actually think I'll be able to keep up and finish on time ... but I'll be out of town this weekend. If I take a project it'll be my Seattle Socks on bamboo DPNs because I'm going here again. Different hotel but same destination, same work trip. I also just noticed it's been 2 years since I made my last pair of socks!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Tale of Two Breads

For years I've been pretty okay with the spelt bread I get from my bread machine. Not bad, does the job, dry and crumbly. Two recent events have altered my perspective. First, my husband's business partner is testing out a gluten-free diet and it won't be long before he asks me for guidance. Second, I failed an all rice flour dinner roll recipe. 

On the first point, his biggest gripe was the sticker shock (not taste because he hasn't even gotten that far yet). "Eight dollars for a loaf of BREAD?!!" exclaimed the text. I know it doesn't have to be that expensive but on occasion I've purchased a $4 loaf when I don't have the time or desire to start up the bread machine. Admittedly, that's pretty lazy. Contrary to that tendency, my "conqueress" spirit has emerged. I have now envisioned making bread that would impress even a gluten-lover like my husband -- spongy, moist sandwich bread or a crusty dinner loaf. My current spelt bread is a far cry from normal for most people. If I can demonstrate for friends that gluten-free food can be tasty and yummy and just like their glutenous counterparts, my friends can stop living in agony (and I will feel successful). The closer I can get to "normal" the less intimidating a gluten-free lifestyle will seem.

For the record, spelt is an ancient wheat so yes, it contains gluten. As someone who is sensitive to gluten and not celiac, I tolerate spelt just fine. I like to imagine that the spelt grain hid in the dusty shadows of the pantry while standard wheat underwent poking, prodding, splicing, genetic engineering, everything they've learned since Gregor Mendel opened Pandora's box.

My second point is a post in itself. I started the white rice flour dough (it's not always spelt) in the bread maker on a dough setting so that I could take it out halfway and make it into rolls. To make the long story short, they're not rolls, they're flats.

So here we are at the crossroads of the two breads, or methods rather. I'm pretty sure I can perfect my bread machine output with some refinements. I've heard the yeast needs more time to react, so start it first then add it to the machine. Add 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum for each cup of flour to account for the missing gluten. We'll give those tweaks a shot the next time I pull out the bread machine. It's the other method that is silently begging me to conquer it. Making bread from scratch. I only ever witnessed my mom baking bread on a few occasions long ago. It's a more authentic method that appeals to my from-scratch desire: making my own whipped cream, pancake mix, never using instant rice, ... Eventually I'd like to add pasta to the list, use dried beans instead of canned, etc. I'm still working on this but you get the picture. The book Like Water For Chocolate comes to mind when I consider the time and energy put into cooking for the family. The love comes through in the finished product and nourishes the soul. I suppose it's obvious I'm rooting for the from scratch method. 

It is a far, far better [bread] that I [make], than I have ever done..