The Other Side of Things

…and then there’s the day when I actually blow up six eggs because I forget to turn the burner off. Eggs explode!

…and the cool morning when I think a cup of hot milk will warm me but I head out to the garden, forgetful once again, and that night I spend an hour scraping out my little metal milk pot…

…and the croutons. Things just wouldn’t be all that glorious if we didn’t have our moments of loss and burnt toast.

Hope your day is filled with the Bright Side of Things, friends!

(Not charred croutons…)

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Recipe–Croutons!

When you bake regularly, there are times when a portion of a loaf ends up uneaten. When this happens in our home, we make croutons! They keep well in an air-tight container for several weeks and are so yummy on salads or in soup. We also use them to make bread crumbs–simply by pounding them around in our mortar and pestle, which is such fun, terribly messy-in-the-right-kind-of-easy-clean-up-way, and a good activity for energetic little people. (Or you could use a food processor…)

In this recipe I show how you can add olive oil and salt for extra flavor, but the croutons are just as functional and delicious when left alone. I’ve made croutons from many types of breads, but my favorites are the rosemary French bread that I make, and sourdough. Oh, a French loaf with parmesan in it would be delicious, too!

Time Commitment: A few minutes to cube the bread, a long wait, then a few more minutes to bake the croutons…

Tools you need:
  • Bread knife and cutting board
  • Mixing bowl
  • an oven :)
  • Cookie sheet

Ingredients:

  • old bread
  • olive oil
  • salt
What to do:

Step One: Cut the old bread into crouton-sized cubes.

Step Two: Put the cubed bread into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, toss the cut bread, then drizzle some more. I don’t saturate mine, just put on enough to coat and get flavor… Toss in a few pinches of salt as you go.

Step Three: Leave the cubed bread out overnight on a cookie sheet, or at least for a few hours in the open air.

Step Four: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toast the bread cubes in the oven for 8-12 minutes, depending on size.

Step Five: After they cool, store the croutons in an airtight container. Ask some friends over for dinner, make a lovely Caesar chicken salad –with croutons–for dinner, and enjoy!


Christmas Cheer

Two rounds of bread baking in one day…

It’s oven season and mine is humming along (now that I have my new and improved relay board installed!). I’ve been sticking to my experiment, to always bake double of what we need and give half away. Recently I baked two pans of a lenten carrot cake, taking the second pan to church to share with friends. Then I went on a sourdough bread extravaganza, mixing up an enormous batch, which turned out to be a mighty flop. How can you give flopped bread away? It’s hard.

Backing up. I know some of you still don’t believe that last week’s ugly batch of bread was really all that ugly. I told you, the photo just didn’t show all the hideousness. I truly would have offended someone if I’d offered it as a gift.

Well, I did it again. My sourdough loaves came out ghastly.

This is hard for me–to accept that after all these years I can still make such beginner baking mistakes. But being humbled is good. I placed the bread in a beautiful wooden bowl which is the color the bread really should be. And I brought it out into the natural light so that you could really see the pale, icky crust. And I know what I did wrong–I simply had too much water in the mix. My husband thinks the second loaf resembles a portabello mushroom. Here are the photos. Feel free to gasp and be horrified!

I may be many things, but I’m not a quitter. As soon as the ugly sourdough came out of the oven, I mixed up a new batch of French bread, making sure the dough was on the dry side. How pleased I was, several hours later, when those golden loaves greeted me as the oven timer dinged…

Of course, when you’re baking two batches of bread in one day, this all takes time. Time to mix, time to rise, time to bake. Not to mention all the other time-related things I do like reading with John Ronan, cleaning the very dusty living room, washing loads of laundry, algebra with Madeleine and running to the store for hummus…

So, when the second batch of bread came out of the oven at 6:30 pm I wasn’t sure where to take it. Most meals are planned and half way eaten by 6:30 in our neighborhood, but you just have to trust in the Law of Giving.

As we prayed for our own dinner, then sat to enjoy the simple meal my husband had cooked, we discussed who to give the warm (and gorgeous) French bread to.

As I lit the candles around our Advent wreath I was inspired. How about to the only neighbor on our block who has donned her house with Christmas cheer? How about Ashley?

The two littlest and I dashed across the street–and wouldn’t you know? Ashley hadn’t eaten yet, was thrilled to have some warm bread in her hands, plus, John Ronan got to talk to her all about the making of our Advent wreath (and many other things…).

What to do with all that ugly sourdough?

Croutons!

It’s the season of giving. Cheers to you all!