Saturday, January 24, 2009

TJ's Week Three: Baking


I shudder at the mere mention of the word. Baking is, to me, what the gestapo must have been like to the Fauvists. Exact measurements? Powders everywhere? KNEADING? This isn't cooking; this is torture.

I've been told by friends, Tony and Shayne among them, that I'm a passable cook. I can throw together a pasta sauce using a tomato and an old spice rack. But what I can never seem to do is sit down and follow a set of directions in such a way as to cause a fluffy, fresh-smelling loaf of deliciousness to come out of the oven.

Until now, I guess?

I set to work using my aunt's recipe for Irish brown bread. She assured me the recipe, reproduced here, was so simple a lobotomized monkey could do it.

Irish Brown Bread

1 C all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 T cold butter or margarine
2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C regular or quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 C plain nonfat yogurt

1. In a bowl, mix all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in whole wheat flour and oats.

2. Add yogurt; stir gently. If mixture is too dry to hold together, stir in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, just until dough holds together. It should not be sticky.

3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead gently 5 times to make a ball. Set on a lightly greased baking sheet. Pat into a 7-inch circle. With a floured knife, cut a large X on top of loaf.

Bake in a 375 degree oven until well browned, abut 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or cool.

Things weren't looking good for me from the outset. First off, did you know those little t's are different from the big T's? I had forgotten, and had to throw out the meager beginnings of my dough when I remembered.

Then came the "do not make dough sticky" clause. I was impatient, trying to get my dough to hold together after the addition of the yogurt, and, because I had no milk, I tried adding bits of hot water. A little too much hot water, I suppose.

Anyway, the whole thing came out heavier and cakier than I remember my aunt's version being. But at least I tried.

This loaf of fresh brown bread is only slightly less awesome than watching a presidential inauguration for the first time. I realize now I should have counted that as my DSA of the week and said eff it to the baking.

But as President Obama says, we must all try our best and do what needs to be done. And for me, I guess that means making dough.


  1. I'm told I ate that quite frequently when very small; I shall have to have a go, though my culinary skills are about nil.

  2. I've never had this (no shocker there, I'm not Irish whatsoever), but I rather like baking, so I've put this on my list of things to try : D

    The Lady 529