Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bread and honey

My editor asked me if I could provide a simple bread recipe. In a word: No.

What We Ate at 4 Teakwood doesn't believe in easy. It doesn't even necessarily believe in giving both the oven temperature and the cooking time in the same recipe. My mother was an instinctive cook. Most of her recipes were in her head, dishes she'd cooked a hundred times without really thinking about it.

Others were from a cookbook her Scottish mother-in-law gave her nearly 60 years ago. She still has it.

What We Ate was such an act of love because she actually sat down and attached measurements and ingredient lists to what she cooked automatically. She also taught me that your taste buds are the best judges, that fresh herbs are superior to dry and that a glass of wine makes most things, if not better, at least forgivable.

Here's Gloria's recipe for Flower Pot Bread.:

4 cups milk, scalded
6 T sugar (or honey)
6 T shortening (I use margarine)
6 tsp salt
2 cups warm water
4 tsp sugar
4 envelopes dry yeast
12 cups flour (9 wholewheat, 3 white)

Scald milk, add 6 T sugar, the salt and shortening. Dissolve 4 tsp sugar in warm water and add yeast. Let stand 10 minutes, add to other liquids. Stir in 9 cups flour, beat well.* Add remaining flour (this is a sticky dough).

Cover and let rise 40-60 minutes, until double in bulk.** Turn out on floured board, knead lightly. Divide into 6 equal parts. Place in well-greased flower pots (you read that right). Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (40 to 60 minutes). Bake in 375 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes with double thickness of foil wrap under each pot.

Turn out and cool.

To prepare pots (six, about 5 x 5), wash new clay pots well, dry and grease them with shortening, then bake them empty in 375 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Grease again and reheat ... repeat once more. Now you're ready!

* Or you can do what I do and toss the dough into the Cuisinart, using the pastry hook.

** Is there anything more satisfying? You take a few ingredients, you let them sit and the house starts to smell wonderful. It's like being an alchemist.

Are you going to make Flower Pot Bread on a regular basis? Of course not. But it wows kids. I loved to see it come out of the oven and so did my daughter and her cousins. Grandma's a magician! And her house smells great too!

The flower pots became mine when my parents sold their house this summer. My kids are too old to amaze and I really hope the grandkids are some time off.

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