I’m sorry. I truly am. I really am a loyal correspondent, proud of my record of prompt response to emails, calls, and yes, comments on my blog. I thought it was just that you’d gone silent on me, sort of hibernating for the winter (and horrible spring) or something. Most of my readers email rather than post, so I didn’t think a whole lot of the fact that there was no one commenting on the blog, and I could see that it was still being read from the stats. Then, the other day, I noticed a typo in my blog and tried to get into the site to try to fix it; strangely, Little Compton Mornings was not showing up on my blog list. And I couldn’t log in.
I soon figured out that, despite a prior effort to change the email address associated with LCM, it hadn’t worked. And I still haven’t figured out why, and still can’t engineer the change. But I was able to log in with my old email address. And there, to my horror, I found nearly 30 unmoderated comments—i.e., messages from you that had gone unposted, and unanswered. They have now been published, and I am in the process of responding to them. So particularly if you asked a question, look for a belated answer in the old posts where you originally made your comment.
So I’m sorry, and wish I could make it up to you. Bring you some food to ask for forgiveness. I thought what that might be, if I really could. Some sort of simple, honest penance, I thought, like a loaf of plain, wholesome bread. So here is a virtual offering, of white bread and strawberry jam. Will you forgive me?
Rich White Bread
This bread is enriched with egg, butter, sugar, and milk. It has a nice crust and soft, flavorful crumb. It makes really good toast, and can also be used to make hamburger or other rolls. Makes 2 loaves.
For the sponge:
2 ¼ cups unbleached bread flour
¼ cup buttermilk powder
2 tea instant yeast (or 1 ½ pkg dry yeast, dissolved in ½ cup of the water)
1 ½ cups warm water
Mix together in a large bowl until well combined. Cover and let rise until very puffy and foamy, 45 minutes to an hour.
For the dough:
1 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
1 ½ tea salt
1 T sugar
1 T honey
3T butter, melted
1 large egg
½ cup additional flour or more
2 tea melted butter for brushing loaves
To the sponge, add the 1 ½ cups flour, the salt, and the sugar and honey. Stir well until it forms a sticky dough. Beat the egg into the butter (be sure it’s not too warm), and add to the dough, stirring with a wooden spoon until most of the liquid is incorporated. Using your hand, and turning the bowl with the other, work the dough in the bowl, adding the additional flour only as needed, until it has come together well into a ball. Flour the counter and turn out the dough; it will be very soft and still rather sticky. Knead it, adding as little flour as possible, until it is smooth and you can pull the dough in a solid mass up off the counter without it sticking. The dough should still be very soft. Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turning it once to coat. Cover, and let rise until double; this will take about 1 ½ -2 hours.
Turn the dough out without punching it down. With a lightly floured knife, divide it in two. To make loaves, flatten each piece of dough gently into an oblong the length of your bread pan and about three times its width; fold it lengthwise into three sections, like a letter, and rock it gently on the counter to form an even loaf with squared ends. Place into oiled bread pans, cover, and let rise until the dough comes up beyond the top of the pan, about 1 ½ hours. Bake the loaves for about 35-40 minutes, until nicely golden and hollow-sounding when you tap the bottom. Immediately brush with the melted butter; remove from the pans, and let cool completely before slicing.
Never refrigerate homemade bread; freeze it, or leave it on the counter, wrapped in a clean dishtowel, for up to 2 days—it will be gone.
I made rolls with half the dough; bake them at 375 F for about 12-15 minutes . See the photo at right? Note the surface of the roll—a bit bubbly and somewhat flat: they were slightly over-risen. Important lesson!: Do not get into a long conversation with your particularly talkative friends (we all have them) and forget about your dough! (Still good, of course.)
Following up on last week's post, I did make one small batch of jam when I was told by one of the local strawberry growers that he thought the berries were going to completely rot if the rain did not end soon. Which of course it hasn’t (there is even an article on the nonstop rain in today's NYT), and I had already noticed they were getting a little waterlogged. So no time to lose. Makes about 1 1/2 pints.
1 quart perfect strawberries
2 ½ cups sugar
juice of ½ lime or lemon
Remove the crowns and stems from the berries; wipe any dirt off with a paper towel. Leave smaller berries whole; slice large berries in half or, if very large, quarters. You will have about 3 ½ cups after you have eaten your share as you work. Add the juice and sugar and very gently turn the berries and sugar over until it is combined. Cover and leave out on the counter overnight, stirring occasionally (not in the middle of the night, of course).
In a 4-qt pan, bring the berries to a boil and cook at a moderately high boil, skimming the foam into a cup, until the jam has set, about 10-11 minutes; it will sheet from the spoon or form a soft gel on a cold saucer; see previous post on preserving for general guidance on cooking and storing.
I “skim the skim” near the end of cooking, as there is often some good, flavorful syrup at the bottom of the cup; I pour it back into the pot.