Monday, January 30, 2012

Rosemary, Flax and Living Simply

I just finished baking a medium sized rosemary and flax boule. If you aren't familiar with the term "boule", it is french for "ball" and is the shape many artisan breads come in. As we near the end of the month, Ken and I are without many typical grocery items, such as milk, eggs and now, flour. We took Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University" a little over a year ago, and a big part of the program is learning how to work within a monthly budget. Over the past year, the two of us have saved more money and spent less than I expected. But then of course, being the "Doubting Thomas" I sometimes am, I fought against the idea of "living within one's means" and would gladly have stayed on our previous course regarding money had Ken not kept encouraging me to practice faith and discipline. Now that I am currently unemployed, I am so thankful that we chose that route and pursued it with diligence. And continue to do so.

This brings me to the reason why we are without basic household food items that to the average American may seem essential. Yes, we overspent on our grocery budget. Somehow, our little money envelope dwindled quicker than it could be replenished with a new month's start date. But since we are committed to living within our means, I have been using up some of our bulk items that I typically avoid because they take more work and creativity to prepare and enjoy (i.e. dry beans, farro, whole spices etc.) The bread I just pulled out of the oven was the result of me running out of flour mid-process and knowing beforehand that I didn't have eggs or milk for a richer sandwich bread. The phrase "Necessity is the mother of invention" sure applies to where I find myself right now. Here's to living simply and exploring what possibilities may arise!

My Rosemary-Flax French Bread recipe if you're interested:

3 1/2 c. all-purpose or whole wheat flour
2 tbsp. dried Rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. ground flax seed
1 1/3 c. to 1 1/2 c. lukewarm water (70 degrees)
2 tsp. instant dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar

Proof the yeast by adding it to the warm water mixed with 1 tsp. sugar. Mix gently until combined. Then set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and chopped Rosemary and pulse until combined. Then add the flax and pulse for 30 seconds. Once yeast is proofed (risen quite a bit and bubbly), add to the food processor and pulse until the dough forms a ball. This should take 30 seconds or so. If the dough is sticking to the sides of the food processor and looks too wet, add a little flour, a tablespoon at a time until it forms a ball. Likewise, if the dough looks unusually hard, add a little water, one tablespoon at a time.

In a large greased plastic bowl (I used olive oil), transfer over the contents of the food processor. Cover the bowl loosely with a damp kitchen towel and place in a warm area (I put mine by the heater) for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, the dough should be doubled in size. If not, something is wrong. Call me and I'll explain how to proof yeast without killing it. If you have killed the yeast (which must be kept alive to make the dough rise), I can't help you. You can still bake and eat the bread but it may not be what you expected.

If your dough has doubled in size, go ahead and punch it down and then form it into two medium sized boules ("balls") and place on a greased cookie sheet. Try to place a couple inches between them on the baking sheet. Then cover the boules with the same damp kitchen towel you used for the first rising. Place the boules in a warm area for another 30-40 minutes while you heat your oven to 375 degrees.

Note: I like to bake my bread on the third row down from the top of the oven. This allows me to place a 3/4 inch baking pan with boiling water on the lowest shelf while the bread bakes. I've found this method gives me a bread which is perfectly crusty on the outside and moist on the inside.

Bake your boules at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, checking to see if they're done with either a toothpick, knife or thermometer that registers about 210 degrees.

All bread to rest on cooling racks for a few minutes before devouring.
Butter and enjoy!

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