There's no question about it--my husband is much better at gift-giving than I am. He clearly puts a lot of thought into it and comes up with lots of great things, many of which I wouldn't think of for myself. He's directly responsible for my love of cooking magazines, for instance. About 10 years ago, I had the flu. The real deal--I was extremely miserable for most of a week. To make me feel better, Jamie brought me an issue of Fine Cooking to read while I was stuck in bed feeling horrible. I had cookbooks, and watched cooking shows on PBS, but I'd never actually read a cooking magazine. All it took was that one issue, and I was hooked. =)
He's continued to feed my baking and cooking
obsession hobby. He's responsible for quite a few of the cookbooks I've acquired in the past several years, especially since I started blogging. For our anniversary a couple weeks ago, he got me another gift that I'll be able to use a lot. He checked some lists of traditional anniversary gifts. This was number eight for us (though we were together five years before we got married, as well). There are a few variations, but one of the options for #8 is pottery. So he went to a wonderful local gift shop and got me a couple of lovely pieces. One is the gorgeous serving tray pictured in the photos in this post. (I'm sure the other will make an appearance soon.) I pretty much immediately wanted to bake something just so I could take photos. =) I've been having a hard time writing bread posts lately, partly because I think after a while it's hard to come up with interesting pictures. This was the perfect thing to get me going again. (And yes, he did consider that I could use the dishes for blog photos.)
To start with, I chose a bread that I've been wanting to make again for a while. The recipe is from one of my favorite bread books, Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. The official name is Soft Rye Sandwich Bread. I just refer to it as sourdough rye, since it does use a sourdough starter for the preferment. The final dough is spiked with a bit of commercial yeast as well, which means the bread doesn't take forever for the final rise. =) The great thing about a lot of the recipes in this book is that the doughs require minimal kneading, since they get a long, slow fermentation in the fridge which allows time for the gluten to develop on its own. The dough can be held for several days, too, so you can bake when you have time.
The rye flour is just in the perferment, so the rye flavor is fairly mild. A bit of molasses in the dough adds some flavor and color. You have the option to add some cocoa powder as well, to darken the color, but I skip it. Caraway and orange oil are other optional flavorings, but I go for the plain version. The dough can be baked in loaf pans, or as freeform loaves, which I prefer. This time, I made the dough into two bâtards. I dusted the tops with a bit of flour, which makes them easier to score and makes for a nice contrast after baking.
The verdict? I love this bread. I've made it several times now, and it's always delicious. I can happily eat it just with some butter, but it also makes terrific sandwiches--especially with ham. I think everyone else likes it, too, but this one was mainly for me. =) I love the slight tang from the sourdough and the fact that since I made the bread, I can leave out the caraway, which I don't like. Mmm.
If you'd like to try this bread for yourself, I highly recommend getting the book (or checking it out from your library, if you can). I've made at least a dozen recipes from it so far, and have enjoyed them all.
For more wonderful yeasted treats, be sure to check out Yeastspotting!