Freshly Baked Bread and Fluffy Dumplings, A First.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I've never baked bread. 

But I've always wanted to. 

It's just - it's just that it's absolutely terrifying. The thought of all those hours of kneading and punching and rolling and turning ... if it flops, it feels like all of your hard work and effort will be for naught! I couldn't risk that! I'm all for experimenting with baked goods and recipes, but bread... well, it's been my Baking Achilles' Heel.

After a lengthy discussion about the complexity of bread with Isabella at about 1am this morning, I made up my mind to find an 'easy' bread recipe and to get stuck right in. I checked Jamie Oliver's recipes, Nigella's recipes, BBC Food's recipes and finally settled on one that came in a lovely little recipe book with my Kenwood Chef. 

So here's my split tin loaf after it had been kneaded, pounded, punched, rolled and risen:

So far so good. Now for the oven! I have a fan-forced oven so all recipes have to be a bit adjusted to cope with the extra heat. It usually just means adjusting the temperature by lowering it 20'C, or reducing the cooking time by 7 - 10 minutes.

The moment of truth! I was absolutely delighted. It rose perfectly, browned beautifully and the sprinkled flour was the perfect way to create that rustic farmhouse look.

The outside was crisp and crusty whilst the inside is perfectly light and doughy. I'm very, very happy with this. I cut it hot, buttered it, and broke bread with G as we celebrated the triumph. I'm so glad that my neighbours didn't choose to look up from their balconies to see us doing silly victory celebrations. Farmhouse bread, perfectly baked, buttered and served with a cup of Tetley's Redbush Tea.

In other cooking news, it's bucketing down with rain outside and the beautiful sun and clear skies of yesterday have been replaced with black clouds and downpour. How is this cooking news? Well, it's the perfect day for soup! And G happened to buy some Matzo Meal so that we could make some kneidlach, like Granny's. 

In our family, whenever there is kneidlach on the go, we all know that the secret to the perfect kneidl is to leave it simmering in the soup and to not lift the lid to check on them. So - testing and tasting is off limits, sneaking a spoon of Granny's delicious soup is definitely off limits, and photographing is completely a no-go because as soon as they're ready, they should be served to the hungry and waiting. 

I've never been involved in the making of the kneidlach so it was a complete experiment. They start off small and solid but they simmer in the soup until the explode and fill the pot with their kneidlish goodness: 

I was so surprised when the timer went off to let me know I should check them, and when I did they were enormous! Best of all - our pot lids are glass so you can peek in without disturbing the simmering! Best solution for family dinners when we all want a peek.

Here's our soup - doesn't it look like Granny's soup? Very exciting. It reminds me of the food we had when we visited Prague; all the dishes are served with the most delicious dumplings. Mm.

Kneidlach, adapted from here:

1 C matzo meal
1 C boiling water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper

1. Pour the boiling water over the matzo meal and mix until completely combined.
2. Add in the rest of the ingredients, and any other seasoning you wish to include like chopped parsley or even small bits of grated carrot. Mix thoroughly, and chill for about an hour. 
3. Roll the 'dough' into small balls about 2.5cm in diameter, and drop into the boiling soup. Cover and simmer for at least 15 minutes. I would let them go for a little longer so that they get nice and fluffy in the middles. 

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