Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sharing Sunday: Flour Arrangements


You are really in for a treat, of all sorts, this week. The blog I am sharing with you, Flour Arrangements, happens to be written by one of the most brilliant women I know. Her blog is about her love of baking and the recipes she makes, but what will capture your heart are the stories that accompany each and every one. I have been fortunate to sample more than a handful of these delicacies first hand. 

She is the woman who brings homemade marshmallows and graham crackers when our families camp together. She is the one who always offers to bring something mind-numbingly good when we invite them over for dinner. She is the friend who wins First Place at the County Fair for her apple pie. She is the woman who has made countless memories for my family because the warmth of her heart and spirit surpass what any oven alone could produce.

While she can bust out the most amazing loaves of bread and mouthwatering doughnuts, I am truly in awe of her cake making and decorating fetes. Her daughters ask for a dozen roses or an exploding volcano and she will make it happen. She wanted to make a tribute to her mom, who is a wonderfully talented quilter and she produces this and when I think she can't possibly top that she produces a cake for her daughter's play, a cake for her girlfriend's baby shower and a beautiful dream-come-true cake for a special little lady (her mom designed Suzanne's logo---super cute!). Ya see what I mean?

The beauty of Flour Arrangements is that in addition to learning wonderful recipes and techniques, you get to meet Suzanne and her family. Enjoy!

by Suzanne Cowden of Flour Arrangements

Before I went back to teaching again last year, I used to bake bread several times a week.  We ate plenty and shared plenty.

Working messed with my bread rhythm, though, and finally I started buying bread.  It wasn’t the same, but we all got used to it.

When June brought summer freedom, I thought I’d start baking again.   I did bake a few loaves here and there, but I just never seemed to get back into the bread-baking habit.

As the summer drew to a close, I found some time to bake French bread.  Eliza nearly ate a whole loaf in one sitting.  She would have eaten more if I’d let her.

The next day she asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on one of the remaining loaves.  Baguettes are not my go-to for peanut butter and jelly, but she went crazy for them.  She wanted them day after day after day.  The bread didn’t last long.

This week, Eliza started school, and so did I.

My daughter’s enthusiasm for fresh bread prompted me to make a back-to-school decision I hope I can live up to;   I will make time each week — somehow — to bake bread for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I’m putting in my first grader’s lunch box.

I may not be able to pull off an edible alligator or the three little succulent piggies like my friend Kimi, but at least it’s something.

One week down, 39 to go.  By then, it’ll be a habit.  Here’s hoping, anyway.

French Bread
From The Bread Bible.  Makes three long baguettes or round boules.

2 cups warm water (105º to 115º F)
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
2-3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
cornmeal, for sprinkling
1 large egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water, for glazing

Pour the water in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer.  Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water.  Stir until combined.  Let stand at room temperature until dissolved and foamy, about 10 minutes.

Add 2 cups of the bread flour and the salt.  Beat hard with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add remaining bread flour and most of the all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a shaggy dough that clears the sides of the bowl is formed.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 3 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy.

Place the dough in a lightly greased deep bowl.  Turn once to coat the top and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a cool area until tripled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  If you have time, punch down the dough and let it rise again for about an hour.

Gently deflate the dough.  Turn it out on a lightly floured surface.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle it with cornmeal.  Divide the dough into 3 equal portions.   Shape the portions into tight round balls for boules or flatten each portion into a rectangle for baguettes.  Roll each rectangle up tightly with your thumbs to form a long sausage shape;  roll back and forth with your palms to adjust the length.  Place the loaves 4 inches apart on the baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until puffy and doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Slash the tops of the loaves diagonally about 1/4-inch deep and brush the entire surface with the glaze.  After placing loaves in the oven, reduce temperature to 400° F.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until crusty and the loaves sound hollow when tapped with your finger.  Eat immediately or transfer the loaves to a cooling rack.
Visit Suzanne at or on her Facebook Fan Page.

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1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love bread. I can live on it for days on end- seriously. Although I've never tried to make my own... maybe if I have enough time I will try it out :) Pulling homemade bread out of the oven seems very fulfilling.


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