Pass the Quackers!! Please.

My walk home from work today was far from routine. The usual four-mile route was riddled with obstacles, leaving me no choice but to make detours. Along the way, I was harassed by people trying to sell me video iPods, people asking for directions, and people making some rather unmentionable requests. Seriously! On a normal day I can walk along the esplanade, next to the river. It is quiet and scenic. Today was the exact opposite. With the annual Rose Festival going on, some minor construction, and a bunch of other nonsense, it took me much longer to reach the solace of my apartment. By the time I put my key in the door, I was hungry, moody, and tired. But something changed all of that…something that was waiting patiently for me in my mailbox…something from Celine! I ran upstairs with my last wee bit of energy, slammed my door and collapsed on the futon. Holding the package, I couldn’t help but think “Please be a treat, please be a treat, please be a treat…(greedlessly of course)”

It was a treat! Packaged so carefully in one of the biodegradable bags I sent Celine were Cheezy Quackers! Just what I needed! There was, however, a delay. A sticker on the packaging was warning me: DO NOT OPEN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. I contemplated what to do. And then I opened the bag and ate about two dozen quackers. These savory crackers are incredibly addictive. Thank you so much Celine, for the awesome gift!

Rye Love

I love bread. If I could, I would capture the aroma of bread baking and stow it in my pockets…This past weekend, I made my favorite recipe for rye bread: Rye Bread. This recipe is only slightly adapted from a paperback book my mom gave me entitled Baking: Easy-to-Make Great Home Bakes by Carole Clements. It reminds me of the Swedish Rye Bread I made when I worked at a bakery back in Pennsylvania. That was my very first job and the reason I developed a passion for baking (sigh…I miss working there!). The recipe says it makes one loaf, but who eats a four-plus pound loaf of bread?! Crazy huge. I always end up dividing the dough in two, and giving a loaf away to a friend or being greedy and eating both. This bread freezes well too. Smear it with some Earth Balance and homemade jam and kick back all happy and full. See? What’s not to love?

Rye Bread (adapted from Baking: Easy-to-Make Great Home Bakes)

2 cups rye flour
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
5 T Earth Balance
1 T sea salt
2 T roasted caraway seeds (bake at 325 degrees F for about 7 minutes)
2 1/4 t active dry yeast
1/2 cup + 2 T lukewarm water
1 t unrefined sugar
6-6 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
cornmeal for dusting

1. Mix the rye flour, boiling water, molasses, Earth Balance, salt, and caraway seeds together in a large bowl. Set aside to cool.

2. In another bowl, stir together the 2nd measure of water, yeast, and sugar. Set aside for about 10-15 minutes, until it becomes a foamy mass.

3. Add the yeast mixture to the cooled rye flour mixture. Add the all-purpose flour one cup at a time, until you can no longer stir by hand. I usually transfer the mixture to my stand mixer because I am a lazy kneader. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed. Place into a greased bowl, cover with a towel or plastic bag, and allow to rise in a cozy spot until doubled in volume. Punch down, and allow to rise again, for about 45 minutes.

4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Dust two baking sheets with cornmeal. I line mine with parchment first, but you don’t have to. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Shape into round masses, or, tuck into loaf pans if you wish. Let rise again on prepared baking sheets for about 15-20 minutes (or the time it takes for your oven to heat up). Score across the tops, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the bottoms sound hollow when you tap them. Cool on racks.

*Note: I usually bake one loaf at a time because my oven is mean and won’t bake evenly if I stuff it too full. Maybe you have a nice oven that cooperates? If so, go ahead and bake both loaves at the same time. I dare you. Enjoy your bread!