Monday, January 15, 2018

Safeway French Bread and Sirius, the Dog Star

During the past months our southern neighbours have been in a tizzy over the various things that their president, Donald Trump, has been saying and doing.
Well, here in Canada we’ve have a bit of bad news to deal with, too.

Last December Loblaw Co., and its parent company George Weston Ltd., confirmed that they had told the Competition Bureau about an alleged industry-wide bread price-fixing scheme that had lasted from 2001 to 2015. 
In other words, for 14 years grocery retailers have been coordinating bread price increases.
Some estimate that Loblaw alone got $1 billion in extra profit from the bread price-fixing.

Canadians have a reputation for being calm, polite folks.
Yeah, well, that only goes so far and nobody here is calm about having been robbed every time he or she bought a loaf of bread.
We’re not talking booze or cigarettes, an optional item that one should cut back on buying anyway.
Bread’s a basic, the staff of life, the thing we need to make the kids’ lunch sandwiches.

Some folks have gone so far as to swear off buying bread.
We folks of a certain age can remember when we were big on making things ourselves.
Ah, the seventies, when we made our own candles, yogurt, pasta and bread.
We did it then and we can do it now!

I got an email asking if I had the French bread recipe that was on the Safeway all purpose flour bag.
Of course I do.
I’ve got my method in the hints section, since I don’t use my mixer for bread making.
Suit yourself.


If Italian is more your thing, here’s the recipe for Ma’s crusty Italian bread.
And for the kiddies’ lunches, here’s Ma’s recipe for white bread.


Hints:

This is how I adapted Safeway’s recipe to do it by hand:

Makes 2 loaves

Grease 2 baking sheets or 1 large sheet
Sprinkle pan(s) lightly with corn meal  

Place in a small bowl
2 1/2 Cups warm water (about 120ºF) 
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
Let stand about 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve.

While the yeast mixture is standing, place in a large bowl 
3 Cups flour
After the yeast mixture has been allowed to stand 5 minutes add it to the flour.
Add
1 Tablespoon oil
Stir to combine well.
Stir in 
2 1/2 Cups flour
1 Tablespoon salt
Stir until a soft dough has formed.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface.
Knead in
About 1 - 1 1/2 Cups flour
Knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl.
Turn to cover all sides.

Cover and let rise in a warm place, about 1 1/2 hours.
It should be about doubled in bulk.
Punch down the dough and let rest 10 minutes.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface.
Cut it into 2 even pieces.
Roll one piece into a rectangle, about 10 x 15 inches.
Starting on a long side, roll up tightly, pressing dough at each turn.
Pinch the ends and loose edge to seal.
Roll ends between hands to taper them and tuck under.
Place diagonally, seam side down, on prepared pan.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

In a measuring cup combine
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon water

With a sharp knife, lightly gash tops diagonally every 2 1/2 inches. 
Brush with the egg white mixture.
Cover, let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 hour. 
Brush again with egg white mixture.

Preheat oven 375ºF
Bake for 20 minutes, then brush loaves again with egg white mixture.
Bake 20 minutes longer.
Remove loaves from sheets, cool on wire racks.


                        Safeway French Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Grease 2 baking sheets or 1 large sheet
Sprinkle pan(s) lightly with corn meal        

In a large mixer bowl combine
3 Cups flour
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast

Heat
2 1/2 Cups warm water 
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon shortening
just until warm (45º-50º C / 115º-120º F), stirring constantly until shortening almost melts. Add to flour and yeast mixture and beat at low speed of electric mixer for 1/2 minute, scraping bowl. Beat 3 minutes at high speed.

By hand stir in enough flour to make a soft dough (approximately 2 1/2 cups).
Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface and gradually knead rest of flour (approximately 1 cup) into dough until dough is smooth and satiny (about 10 minutes). Do not under knead. Shape into ball.

Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface.
Cover and let rise in a warm place 25ºC (80ºF) until double, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down; divide in half. 
Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Roll each half into a 38 x 30 cm rectangle.
Starting with long edge, roll up tightly, seal well.
Taper ends and tuck under.

Place each loaf diagonally, seam down, on prepared baking sheet(s).
Gash tops diagonally every 6 cm, 1/4 to 1/2 cm deep.
Brush with egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water.
Cover, let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 hour. 
Brush with egg white mixture and sprinkle sesame seed (optional) on top of each loaf.

Bake in 190ºC (375ºF) oven for 20 minutes, then brush again with egg white.
Bake 20 minutes longer.
Remove loaves from sheets, cool on wire racks.


About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

January 15 - This week the star Mira — the first-ever variable star to be discovered — is expected to peak at its maximum brightness.

January 16 - New Moon at 7:07 p.m. In this phase, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.

January 22 - The brightest of all stars shines prominently this week at around 10:30 p.m. local time over toward the south. Sirius, the “Dog Star,” is the brightest star of the constellation which bears the Latin name Canis Major — the Greater Dog.

January 24 - First Quarter Moon at 5:20 p.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!! Welcome 2018!


Happy Holidays, everyone.
Sending you and yours wishes for a happy year filled
with health, prosperity, love and loads of fun!

Thank you for visiting ~
Hope to see you throughout 2018!
~ Margaret

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Fettuccine Alfredo and January’s Two Full Moons


The Twelve Days of Christmas season has just begun. The broadcasting of dozens of mass-produced, made-for-TV Christmas-themed movies has finally ended.
Most of them were interchangeable - a woman has a problem, gets stranded at a quaint motel in a really cute town, saves the hotel and / or the town, and finds the love of her life.
Just a bit of visual prozac to get us through the holiday baking and chores.

Then there were a few movies that I enjoy seeing during December.

One of my favourites is The Holiday, a 2006 American romantic comedy filmed in California and England, starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black.
If you missed it, the two women have romantic problems, swap homes (one is in California, one in England) for two weeks during the holiday season, and find the loves of their lives. 
Yeah, I know, the plot is pretty similar to the interchangeable ones, but, trust me, it’s way better.
And the houses… pure house porn!

Toward the end of the movie three of the stars sit down with a plate of fettuccine to help them cope with life’s problems.
I know I’ve often said cheesecake can solve many of life’s problems.
But sometimes, especially on a cold winter night, it helps if the cheese is served warm and with carbs.
And what could be warmer or carbier than a nice plate of Fettuccine Alfredo?


About five years ago I posted a fettuccine recipe.
Fettuccine is another type of pasta, similar to linguine, a wider cousin of spaghetti.
Yes, the Italians have invented a lot of pasta types.
Different strokes for different folks.
Try something new or not - suit yourself.

Fettuccine was a regular part of the menu in our house when I was a kid.
But Ma just tossed the cooked fettuccine with butter and Parmesan cheese. 
Nothing complicated, nothing to write down.
I mean, who writes down the recipe for buttered bread?

Then the aunts told Ma about Fettuccine Alfredo, the fancy version, with heavy cream and other stuff.
Of course each aunt had her own version, thickening with eggs, flour or sour cream.
After a while, Ma did, too.

Back to that movie, The Holiday.
I don’t know what exactly Cameron Diaz or Kate Winslet and Jack Black were eating.
It could’ve been the basic pasta with butter and cheese, or it could’ve been pasta with a cream-based sauce.
Whichever, they felt better after eating it.
And, whichever version you choose, you’ll feel better, too.


Hints:

If you prefer to use margarine or a parmesan cheese blend, no problem.
These recipes also work with 2% or skim milk.

If you want a stronger Parmesan taste, add 1/4 to 1/2 Cup more.

The sauce will thicken as it cools.
If you find the sauce is too thick, stir in a small amount of milk or pasta cooking water to thin it.

if you want to make this more of a meal add one to two cups of hot cooked shrimp or cooked, sliced chicken.

Oh, that fettuccine recipe I posted five years ago was
Carmela Soprano's Fettuccine Primavera - Fettuccine and Vegetables in a Cream Sauce
It can be made any time of the year. Really.


                        Fettuccine Alfredo 

Serves 6

In a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
Add
1 pound fettuccine
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.
Drain and return to the pot.

Alfredo Sauce

Place in a heavy bottomed medium sized saucepan
3 Tablespoons butter
Melt over medium heat.
Add
2 garlic cloves, minced
Stirring, fry for 1 minute.
Stir in
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons flour
Stir until smooth.

Add, 1/2 Cup at a time, stirring well after each addition
2 Cups milk
Increase heat to medium high. Cook and stir until it is bubbling and thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. 
Stir in 
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon dried basil (optional)
Cook for 1 -2 minutes, until cheese is melted.
Stir in 
1⁄2 cup sour cream (low-fat is fine)
Dip a spoon into the sauce to taste. Adjust the seasoning if needed. 
If you want a stronger Parmesan taste add more to and continue to stir.
Cook until heated through.
Pour sauce over fettuccine and toss to coat.


                        Fettuccine Alfredo - light
     
Serves 6

In a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
Add
1 pound fettuccine
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.
Drain (reserving some of the water), rinse and place in a large deep platter or bowl.

Alfredo Sauce

Place in a heavy bottomed medium sized saucepan
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Melt over medium heat.
Stir in
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 Tablespoons flour
Stir until smooth and the mixture turns a pale brown.
Add, 1/2 Cup at a time, stirring well after each addition
2 Cups milk
Add
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
Stir until the cheese melts in and the mixture is smooth.
Dip a spoon into the sauce to taste. Adjust the seasoning if needed. 
If you want a stronger Parmesan taste add more to and continue to stir.
Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sauce becomes thick. Once thickened remove from the heat. 
Pour the sauce over pasta and mix well.
Serve immediately.


About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

January 1 - The January Full Wolf Moon will be this year’s largest Supermoon.

January 31 - January’s second full moon, the Blood Moon, is also called a Full Blue Moon. There will also be a total Lunar Eclipse.

February will not have a full moon this year. Just the way it worked out.

March 1 - March’s first full moon is the Full Worm Moon. 

March 31 - March’s second moon is called a Full Blue Moon. 

April will have a full moon. Yes, we'll be back to normal.