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Monday, November 22, 2010

What would Delia do?

It had been my plan to wait until the weekend to blog again, so as not to overdose, but all those who were in my house tonight were waiting in anticipation at 'how will you write this in your blog', so never being one to disappoint, the following is 'by request' .

At the beginning of the year, I came across a factor that would give me the confidence to make my own bread.  I learned not to be afraid of yeast.  I had heard stories of partly risen loaves that had been eaten and then continued rising in the stomach, causing severe bloating to the consumer. 

My first attempt was quite successful.  Admittedly, I used my breadmaker and a mixture from the store, but the limitations stirred the experimenter within me and I was ready to try something other than a brick shaped loaf that, whilst very fresh and tasted homemade, was not really very adventurous.

It was on a bank holiday in February that Samantha and I decided to have a baking day.  I made my various dough mixtures and left them to rise.  After the specified time I shaped them and left them to rise again.  Then disaster struck.  Chara called and suggested we rescue her dad from the office and go and play, perhaps see a movie or go out for dinner, or better still, both. Any other time, I would have relished the idea but I had bread rising, and I was convinced that if I didnt put it in the oven at the exact moment the timer chimed, it would be ruined.  However,  I decided that Dana's liberation from the taskmaster that is his business was more important, and it would be fun to take part in the cliche that is 'dinner and a movie'. 
 Having watched a very good film and feasted on a plate of mushroom filled pasta, I returned home to my extremely well risen dough, which was immedately placed in the oven.  The result was amazing.  The bread was every bit as good, if not better, than the breadmaker offering.  It was shortly after this episode that my friend, Gail, explained that yeast can, indeed, be your friend.

It was not very long before I was making all manner of dough treats both from my new best friend (a book simply called 'bread') and from my imagination.  If I could make olive bread, then why not sundried tomato rolls.  If I could make raisin bread, then why not belgian buns, and if I could make french bread, why not add something...something different.  I am in Texas after all, and if there is one thing a Texan likes, its jalapenos.  Now, there is a myth that there are such things as 'mild' jalapenos.  Do not ever let anyone fool you.  These do not exist!  However, there are varying degrees of jalapeno peppers which start at hot, then advance to hotter and hottest.  If it takes several minutes to burn through a table, it is usually considered mild.  It is with these that I cook my very own jalapeno cheese bread.  Tuesday night friends join us for a fellowship meeting.  We all take turns in cooking but I make a loaf or three every week.  I found a wonderful recipe that took forty minutes from start to finish, but the rolls did not stay very fresh.  So I started to make the loaves on Monday night. 

So to the main event.  On Sunday, Holly, Samanthas friend, arrived for a visit.  She has visited twice before and this time has come for Thanksgiving.  As the journey is very long and the first day here is normally spent relaxing and recouping energy, I decided to cook a traditional Sunday roast, albeit on a Monday.  When my local supermarket runs a special on beef, it is usually a very substantial 'special' and I stock up.  We were going to feast on Roast beef, roast potatoes and lashings of bisto, which I have found is available at the liquor store.  (The store in question is described as the place for fine wine, liquor and fine foods.  The fine foods, for me, can be found in the international aisle.  I am probably the only person who leaves a liquor store with everything but alcohol! My basked contains baked beans, custard powder, marmite and of course, bisto.  The recommendation that they stock Twiglets has never been put into action, but then we rely on our guests to supply us with this delacacy.)

Tonight, I thought I would attempt (and I use the word in the loosest of terms) to make some Yorkshire Pudding.  Auntie Bessie has, to my knowledge, not ventured as far as the American border, but partakers of my efforts are not familiar with the battered delight and, therefore, assume that what is put on their plate is, indeed, traditional, despite my (weak) protests to the contrary. 

The beef was in the oven as were the potatoes, the batter was mixed and the oil was heating.  I opened the oven and the liquid was bubbling, ready to take the thick white paste and hopefully transform into fluffy little souffle like puffs.  Gently, the mixture was ladled into the tins and the oven door was closed.  I had made my dough and was in the process of 'punching down' and adding the japenos, when I noticed an inordinate amount of steam emitting from my oven.  I turned on the internal light and saw that smoke was filling the oven as the fat had spilled over into the bottom tray. 

Having lived for half a century there are certain things that one learns to avoid accidents in the home.  Never pour water on a burning chip pan, but cover it with a damp cloth or lid.  Always keep handles away from the heat.  Never open an oven when smoke is pouring out of the vents as oxygen feeds a fire.  It was the latter that seemed to slip my mind when I reached for the oven door.  As soon as the door opened, the flames started to lick around the inside of the oven.  Of course, the sensible thing to do would be to close the door, but all my training kicked in and intermingled as I looked for a damp cloth to place over the flames, as if all my cloths are damp for this very occasion.  As I screamed to Samantha to 'get Dana', logic kicked in and I shut the door and turned off the oven.  Smoke filled the downstairs and we opened all the doors to try and disperse the fog.  Dana plugged in a fan and was wafting a towel to help clear the mist, stopping only to look at me with utter dismay when I suggested he was 'creating dust', and I had only just washed all my knick knacks on my bakers stand.  Ever the paranoid housewife!  It was at this point that I thought, 'what would Delia do?'

Fortunately, the dinner was almost cooked and the oven was still hot enough to bake the little puddings that would accompany our meal.  The beef was rare, the potatoes smokey, the yorkshires flat and the bisto 'mmmmm'.  Despite the drama, dinner 'wasn't half bad' and we ate and enjoyed.  Apart from a slight fume-like smell, there appeared to be no damage.

It was as we were clearing away that I remembered I still had to cook my bread.  I gingerly turned on the oven and went to retrieve my dough.  Larger than life, the jalapeno bread was ready to enter the fire, as was the oversized pepperoni loaf and the obese french plait.  Fortunately, bread does not hold a grudge and leaving it unattended for two hours did not hurt its feelings, as it cooked to perfection.

Holly is the perfect houseguest and I don't think the episode will have am adverse psychological effect upon the rest of her life, although she may never enjoy a piece of beef again without thinking 'fire brigade'.

Samantha, Holly and Edward have taken off to see the new Harry Potter film and I am dog sitting.  My oven is now in the middle of the 'self clean' recycle and will be ready for the Thanksgiving extravaganza, and that may be....another story.

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