Friday, March 20, 2009

New Stuff, in No Particular Order

My father is back in the physical rehab place, with his faux kneecap (don`t laugh, they`re all the rage now among the MRSA crowd) in place. Antibiotics are leeching, seeping, and making other such fluid movements, out of said kneecap and into the surrounding area, the rest of his body, etc. Faux kneecap is made of cement BTW, so I believe that swimming is not part of the recommended phys therapy regimen.. More surgery to follow in maybe 6 to 8 weeks.

My friend Nevena had a baby on Tuesday, their second. His name is Vasja. Dobrodšli! :-)

In case you have a short attention span, I added scrolling pictures of Slovenia to this page. No, I did not take them all. If they are on Flickr and tagged SLOVENIA, they will show up.

The annual World`s Largest Ski Jump event and its companion event Winter`s Largest Drinking Binge is in Planica (SLO) this weekend. No, I am not going, just informing.

I learned that the large grey bird that Lucy loves to chase is the Hooded Crow.

We are going to a friend`s birthday party this weekend. He is celebrating at a fantastic private restaurant located in the small 15th century (or 16th?) village of Goče, in the Vipava Valley. We will fill you in on the particulars when we get back. The party is on Saturday and we are going to sleep over at a nearby tourist farm. I will try to remember to bring the camera.

Weather here in Ljubljana has been nice, high 30s to 40s at night, 50s to 60s during the day, sunny....lots of things are blooming. The woods are filled with tens of thousands of crocuses - it seems like many more than last year. Maybe the snow we had this year helped out. Seen from a distance, they are just blankets of purple. It looks like not just the people were impatient for the Spring. The daffodils are also blooming, but we don`t have any of them growing wild so they don`t seem quite as remarkable.

That`s all for now...I will leave you with a favorite joke:

What did the zero say to the eight?
˝Nice belt.˝

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No need to knead!

I have noticed that recipes in Slovene use the ˝we˝ form of the verb (˝We add the flour, then we mix it together....). This sounds much more polite than the form we use in English, which is the command form. (˝Add the flour. Mix it together.˝)

Another noticeable difference is the English use of volume measurements (such as # of cups) rather than weight measurements (# of grams). Also, you will notice that English recipes don`t often use metric measurements at all, especially for volume. Personally I prefer weight measurements, because when you bake it is very good to be very precise. But in the English version of this recipe I give the equivalent weight measurements.

Lately I have been baking a lot of bread. Here is a very good basic bread recipe. it is so good that you will probably find yourself baking a lot, too!

I will give the recipe first in Slovene, and then in English. (This same post is on our company website so that English learners can try to translate the Slovene version into English, and then look at the English one to see if they got everything.) The version in English is a little bit longer at the end because it is easier for me to write it in English, but nothing important has been left out of the Slovene version, I promise. :-)

V plastičnem loncu pustimo kvas (pol koščka), 5 g. soli, 340 ml vode (na 38° C) in 360 g moke (tip 500 ali 650) ; premešamo skupaj. Pokrijemo lonec s plastično folijo in pustimo vzhajati (2-5 ur). Potem pustimo v hladilniku.

Testo lahko pečemo takoj, ampak kruh bo boljši če počakamo nekaj dni (najbolj je pet dni) pred peko.

Pečico segrejemo na 280°C. Posodo z vodo damo na dno pečice – para je zelo pomembno za narediti dobro skorjo.

Pomokamo roke in mizo. Odtrgamo malo testa v velikosti grenivke. Raztegljimo testo v klobčič. Pustimo vzhajati dobre pol ure.

Zarežamo po vrhu dvakrat ali trikrat z nožem in pečemo v pečici okrog pol ure, in sicer pri 280°C.

Ostanku testa dodamo še 340 ml vode (na 38° C) in malo več kvasa, 5 g. soli in 360 g. moke. Pustimo maso vzhajati 2-5 ur, potem pustimo v hladilniku do takrat ko več kruha.

Če ne pečete kruha v 14 dneh, dodajte malo več moke in toplo vodo masi. (Kvas ki živi v testu zato potrebuje hrano.) Ampak kruh je ful dober ,in sigurno da ga boste pekli skoraj vsak dan!

And now, the English version:
English (non-metric):
In a plastic container add 1/2 cube of freash yeast (or 1 packet of granulated), about 1 teaspoon of salt, 1.5 cups of water at about 100 degrees F, and just slightly over 3 cups of flour (type 500 or 650, all-purpose white or a mixture of white and wheat). Mix these together using a spatula or wooden spoon.

Let the mixture sit in a warm place to rise for about 2 to 5 hours. After that, put it in the fridge.

The dough is ready to bake now, but it will taste better if you let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days before baking. Personally I think that 5 days of sitting makes the best tasting bread.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven (the steam is very important for making a good crust on the bread.).

**If you have a pizza stone, put it into the oven before you heat it. This bread bakes best on a pizza stone. I don`t have one anymore, but my bread also turns out just fine. (See the TIP at the end about baking on the stone)**

Put some flour on your hands and also onto your work surface, and then remove a bit of dough from the container – about the size of a grapefruit. Handle it only enough to form it into the shape of a ball, and then put the ball onto your baking tray. The dough will be very thin and sticky, and it will spread out quite a lot (meaning that ´ball` will not hold its shape) and this is OK.

Let it rise in a warm place for about 30 to 40 minutes, then score the top of the loaf a few times with a serrated knife. This helps keep the top of the loaf from cracking. Put it into the 450 degree oven.

Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes. Remove , cool, and eat.

`Feed` your remaining bread dough by adding another 1 tsp of salt, 1.5 cups of water (plus additional yeast) at about 100 degrees F, and just slightly over 3 cups of flour (type 500 or 650, all-purpose white or a mixture of white and wheat). Mix it together using a spatula or wooden spoon.

Let it sit in a warm place to rise for about 2 to 5 hours. After that, put it in the fridge. You are ready to bake again.

If you are not going to bake bread again in the next 14 days (yeah, right!), you will have to remember to feed your yeast, which is living in the dough. Although the yeast is very much asleep while in the fridge, it still needs some food. Be sure to give it a sprinkle of flour and an equal amount of water every 7-14 days. Do not let it go more than 14 days without feeding it. (But this bread is so good that you will probably be baking very day, so that should not be a problem!)

I think that ´perfect´ bread taste and texture is kind of a personal thing. So, if you are unhappy with the texture of your bread, you can always change it by adding more/less flour or water. You can do this either before you are ready to bake it (add more flour to your ball of dough, mix it in, then allow it to rise for 30 minutes before baking) or you can just make the change to your next batch of dough.

Tip: If you have a pizza stone, bake the bread directly on the preheated stone. This will give you better results than baking just on a regular baking sheet. You will need to first sprinkle some cornmeal onto a flat baking sheet or pizza peel and allow the dough to rise on that. The cornmeal then acts like ball bearings, allowing the dough to roll/slide easily off of the sheet/peel, and onto the baking stone.

This bread has never been exactly the same twice, but that could be the result of my wacky 30 year-old oven with a door that does not close properly? Yeah, probably.

But overall, results have always been good. Last week I added some chopped olives to a loaf, and that turned out well. I also baked a small loaf in a pan, and found that the crust did not brown at all but the taste was still good. I think I will continue to bake this recipe without using a pan, though. I think it is better, because I like having a nice crust.

By the way, I am a normal, busy person, with a real job. Anyone with 20 minutes of spare time can do this. Well, you need to physically be at home for 60 minutes for the rising and baking time, but it only requires about 20 minutes of work to both form the loaf that you wish to bake, and to create your new mix. There is no kneading involved at all, I swear.