Lilly and Tamara (right)

So, now I find out having a blog and making promises can actually be a good way for me to learn some new skills. After reading the first chapter of the  book “The Urban Farm” , written by Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols  (both with roots in Seattle) ), I was inspired to find a recipe I had pieced together  when Richard’s sister and mom were staying with us. I had asked Tamara if she would teach me how to make bread since I knew she had been baking her own bread for many years. I thought it would be a good project for the two of us and make some good vibes in the kitchen. She suggested we make breadsticks and so we did. That was in 2009 and I haven’t looked at that recipe since nor attempted to make bread until now. Luckily I did write down the recipe in my little spiral index book I keep tucked away with my cookbooks. Years ago I decided I better start keeping track of some of my better experiments and also of recipes I have  been fortunate enough  to obtain from my friends and family. Of course in my usual loose style I had written a note,  “add 3/4 cup of cooked oats”. Since it was sort of scrawled out to the side I wondered if it was supposed to be used in place of some of the  water or milk. I tried to reach Tamara but she was off riding her horse Johnny and could not be reached.  Better pull out a reference book like “Laurel’s Kitchen”, my kitchen bible for many years, and see if a bread recipe would give me a clue.  I managed to figure out that wet ingredients to dry, the oats were part of the recipe, not a substitution. I will have to substitute almond milk for most of the milk because I had run out of cow’s milk.  This is a usual occurrence in my kitchen, not to worry. At this point I am committed to making the bread and don’t want to run to the store. The problem with my days are that I want to squeeze too much in. Instead of truly enjoying and being in each moment I am mentally leaping ahead to the next task.  Earlier in the day I was thinking of going to exchange a present and see if I could find another leopard snuggie in the after holiday sale heap at Macy’s. Instead R and I decided to take a walk to Golden Gardens and then I would make the bread. I am so glad we took our walk. What a beautiful day it was and my legs needed a challenge after blowing off exercise for the past month. So, take a leap with me ahead. I have started the yeast with warmed water, milk, oats and a little pinch of sugar. Mixed it with half the flour, oil and salt till the gluten starts looking stretchy and the batter is smooth. Added flour a little at a time till it was too hard to mix and then kneaded it for about five minutes. Dang, who needs to go to the gym when you can just wear yourself out in the kitchen? After the dough felt smooth and satiny I formed it into a ball and put it in a greased bowl, I chose one I inherited from my mom that I used back in the 70s. I love that bowl, it’s  an old pyrex one that has lasted 40 or 50 years, that thing has some history behind it, some good  juju. I admit, little things like that make me happy, bring back warm sweet memories and it’s part of the pleasure for me. So I tucked that round smooth satiny dough ball into the bowl , covered it with a towel and  placed it in a warm corner on my kitchen counter to  rise for an hour or so . An hour later, the dough has almost doubled and Richard is getting hungry for dinner. The recipe says it makes 18 breadsticks and now I am wondering how long they are going to take to make. I’m hungry too. I start by punching the dough down to get the air bubbles out. Then I pull a golf ball size piece off and start rolling the clump between my palms. It doesn’t take me long to realize a potter would have an advantage over me. I suddenly remember Tamara producing beautiful, evenly shaped breadsticks while mine were more than slightly irregular. Then I decide to try another method;  rolling the dough on a greased cookie sheet with both my hands. Let’s see…maybe rolling between my palms in mid-air and then pulling with a little shaping thrown in. Breathe deeply, stay in the moment, I notice  how I am becoming a bit frenzied as I try to hurry the process. Stop. Focus. This is supposed to be a “be here now moment” and instead I notice how it has become a race with the clock to get these babies into the oven before the new “Downton Manor” comes on at nine. NINE? , darn a late dinner again. Oh well, at least things are looking ok so far. I manage to roll out a respectable nine breadsticks (the rest can be made later), brush them with a little egg yolk/water mixture and sprinkle each with either rosemary, garlic or seasoned salts from World Spice, ( a wonderful shop just below the Pike Place Market). I am feeling better now, accomplished, a bit smug and a lot ready to sit down. By the way, they turned out almost perfectly. Yummy!

PS: The next morning I had an email from Tamara. “I don’t usually add oats, must have had some leftovers on the stove and we decided to throw them in” . Oh, and  she also told me to let the breadsticks rise about 15 minutes before you stick them in the oven. Oh well, I am still in “BAKING 101”, lots of time for me to fine tune my recipe and my baking skills. I’ll buy local grain from Rene’ Featherstone’s  Lentz Spelt Farms and grind it someday  but  for now I am satisfied.

“Tamara’s Breadsticks” (Lilly’s style)

Ingredients:

2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 cups of white flour (reserving 1/2 cup to add at the end during the last of the  kneading process)

1 cup spelt flour

1 package of yeast

1 cup of water

3/4 cup of milk

3/4 cup of cooked oats

 pinch of sugar
1 egg white  (optional, add it if you decide to brush the tops with egg yolk and spices)

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

2 tablespoons of oil or butter

Toppings:   Add fresh chopped rosemary with a little salt, garlic, seasoned salt, poppy seeds or  any other herbs you like.

Start with warming the milk in a small saucepan till lukewarm, add to warm water, cooked oats and a pinch of sugar. The liquid should be about 105-115 degrees (not too hot) . Yeast will be killed off if the liquid is too warm and not grow if too cold. Sprinkle a package of yeast on top of the liquid and wait about 5 – 10 minutes or so for yeast to rise and bubble to the top.

Add half the flour, 1 egg white (optional), 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and  oil. Beat until smooth and stretchy , 150 – 300  strokes or when throughly mixed

Slowly add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough is too stiff to mix in the bowl

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface , add the remaining flour by sprinkling it onto the board  and kneading the dough into it  until it feels smooth and not too sticky ( I guess this is one of those steps that through experience the baker fine tunes) this is subjective so use your creative intuition for this….om

Let the dough rest  5-10 minutes while you take a break for tea or a little walk around the block

Knead the bread on the floured surface 5 – 10 minutes; push the dough down with the heels of your hands and slightly away from you, fold the dough back toward you and push down again. Turn it and continue these steps until the bread dough feels springy and  smooth. Place in a large oiled bowl away from drafts and cover with a towel.

After the dough has doubled, usually one hour or more , push the dough down in the bowl and then start shaping into breadsticks,  makes about 18 breadsticks so about the size of a golf ball

Mix one egg yolk with 1/2 tablespoon of water and brush tops of breadsticks with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with the topping of your choice.

Place on  oiled baking sheets and let rise 15 minutes

Bake 15 – 18 minutes at 400 degrees

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