Sometimes it is the little things in life that delight me. Actually, a lot of the time. It is rare that big, grand events happen to us most of the time, but if you are on the lookout, there are countless little things that come along to brighten your day. Especially if you are a do-it-yourself type, like me.
Take, for example, the past few days. First it was a purchase from Ingaldsby farm stand when I was home visiting my parents. A wooden basket with “Les Fleurs” stenciled on it. I didn’t have room in my bag, so had to mail it home. It arrived, I bought flowers, and I was absolutely delighted with the result.
Then Justin painted an Adirondack chair that I had wanted to finish ever since I acquired it from a previous roommate. It was once a very loud, colorful, and ugly Yuengling chair. Over the years, the paint chipped to the point that you could not sit in it without getting paint chips on you. Then the handle broke off. I scraped and sanded it before I left on my trip. Justin repaired and painted it a cheerful red when I was away, and I was pleased to come back and see it looking so nice on the porch.
A couple of friends and I made homemade poptarts upon my return. (Yes, that’s right, homemade poptarts! They were incredible and you should go make them) It was such fun to roll out dough, choose sweet and savory fillings, and bake them to golden brown perfection. The next day I enjoyed one on my front porch with tea and a magazine.
And finally, homemade bread. What is more delightful than that? The work that goes into it, the smell of the dough rising, the fresh loaf cooling on the countertop. Then enjoying a slice with butter and jam, or taking a sandwich to the next level with something you made yourself. This time I made Hearty Country Bread from Baking Illustrated. The recipe is a little bit involved, but it’s a nice weekend bread to commit to. Plan a day ahead, though, since you’ll need to make a “sponge” which is a mixture of water, flour, and yeast that ferments overnight and gets added to the final dough.
Hearty Country Bread
Adapted from Baking Illustrated
Makes 1 large loaf.
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup room temperature water
1 cup bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
Combine in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 5-24 hours.
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 1/3 cups room temperature water
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
Mix all but salt in mixer at lowest speed for 15 minutes; add salt during last 3 minutes. If dough looks dry after salt is added, add water in 1 tablespoon increments until a smooth consistency is reached. Transfer to very lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, let rise 2 hours or until tripled in size.
Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface, lightly flour your hands and the top of the dough with flour. Lightly press dough into a round by folding the top, right, bottom, and left sides of the dough into the center. Transfer dough, smooth side down, to a colander or basket lined with heavily floured muslin or linen (I used one of those straw paper plate holders and a cloth napkin). Cover loosely with aluminum foil or a dry cloth, let rise until almost doubled in size, at least 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and put a baking stone in the oven, if you have one.
Invert dough onto a piece of parchment, then carefully slide everything onto the pre-heated baking stone. If you don’t have a baking stone, you can use a regular baking sheet. Use a razor or knife to mark a big X in the top of the dough 1/2 inch deep.
Pour 2 cups of hot water into a heated pan on the bottom rack of the oven (careful to avoid the steam). Bake at 450 degrees for 35-40 minutes until crust is dark brown and a thermometer reads 210 degrees. Turn the oven off, open the door, and let the bread stay in for 10 minutes longer. Remove, then cool to room temperature before slicing.
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