Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Winterfell Bread

Last night, it was just another evening in the Great Hall of Winterfell. The cooks had been laboring in the kitchen for hours and the delicious results wafted through the air, aromatic with the smell of freshly baked bread, a smell that would welcome any Baratheon or one of the lords bannermen. When the bread was at last brought out, long after the main meal of tortillas, beans, cheese, and jalapeño slices, the knights fell upon it as if they had never eaten anything at all. Not many great houses serve their scrumptious bread after dinner, and at one of the long trestle tables, Ser Aaron was immensely pleased that they had saved the best for last.

That's basically what happened. Okay, there were no trestle tables, and reduce the size of the Great Hall to the Hobbit Hole, and you pretty much have a complete picture.

I made bread last night!

I decided to share with you the readers another experiment from my A Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook! This was my third time making Winterfell bread, and it was just as tasty as it was the other two times.

Baking bread seems like a lost art these days. It's so easy to pick up a loaf in the grocery store, and it saves a lot of time, time that most of us don't think we have. Yet I have found that I love the process, and besides all the time it takes for a loaf to raise, the actual dough making and baking does not take that much time, at least in this recipe. Also, when I do buy bread from the store, with the exception of challah bread (which disappears rather rapidly), it always seems to go bad before we can eat it all. Homemade bread, however, never lasts long in the Cooke household. Plus, the aroma from freshly baked bread is one of the best smells around, and homemade bread tastes better than just about anything found in the store.

Winterfell bread exceeds all those benefits of homemade bread written about above. Aaron describes it as the best bread he's ever tasted. One taste could make any knight forget his old allegiances and pledge his honor to the Starks forever.

I halved the recipe, thinking that we wouldn't need all the bread the recipe makes. That was a mistake. I made two small loaves, and today we only have a few slices left. When the bread was done at last yesterday evening, although it was right before bed time, neither of us could resist warm bread fresh from the oven. I guess I won't halve it next time!

A worthwhile mess!
The preparation is quick and simple. I mixed yeast, honey, warm water, flour, and salt to form the dough, and then kneaded it for five minutes. Simple, right? Then I let it rise for a few hours. 

As it rose in a warm place, the bread enjoyed the afternoon sun.
I left to pick Aaron up from the university, and we exercised before we came home. By the time we had scraped together some dinner and showered, the bread had risen beautifully. I then divided the dough in half, placed these halves on a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal (I think that gives it a truly Northern touch), and let them rise for a little more.

Before...
There was nothing left after that but to bake it (and the cookbook gives a few handy tricks for how to make a perfect loaf of bread), and eat it! 

...and after!
I was always daunted by the task of making bread until I actually did it, and realized with great satisfaction how simple it is. Yes, letting the dough rise takes a long time, but if you can leave it and go do other things, it doesn't seem quite so bad. It may seem like a long process by the end, when the bread finally comes out of the oven, but the reward is quite worth it. I think I am in the middle of one of those long processes in my life...events seem to go by slowly right now, but after time has passed, I hope I can look back and see that the time spent was beautiful, and well worth every rising period.

A loaf of bread out of the oven is a lovely thing.
On a side note, I have been blogging for over a year now! I decided it was time to change up the design a bit; I hope you all enjoy it!

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