Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Tale of Five Loaves-WARNING! Long and Potentially Boring

I thought I'd start this post
with a happy picture

Now, on to notes on a day I want to remember.

Let's start with Ruby.

Ruby is an amazing woman, a volunteer who lends her talents to the kitchen here at the ranch. Originally from Guatemala, she has a way about her. You know what I'm talking about, that aura that natural born cooks seem to possess.

I'm repeatedly amazed at the dishes she turns out, sometimes for as many as four hundred people. We eat well here at Ghost Ranch, especially when Ruby is in the kitchen.

Since I love cooking, I've sought her out to possibly learn a few of her secrets.

One day, Ruby and I got to talking about bread. I had made a loaf of bread just last week and shared it with some of the folks here, and Ruby asked if I'd do it in the kitchen for a Sunday dinner. Sundays are usually the slowest day at the Ghost Ranch kitchen, serving only around one hundred or so people.

You can understand my hesitation, when, at that very moment, an alien being swept in and overtook my voice box as I heard it say "Sure, I can do that!"

Now, let's look at this situation.

While I love to cook and bake, I live in a motorhome. I bake either in a small RV oven or in my solar oven. I have small bread pans that make about 2/3 of a regular loaf, just perfect for Terry and me.

So what was I thinking?

Actually, it wasn't me, it was that darned alien. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Back to the bread.

This afternoon, shortly after lunch, I go to the kitchen. I speak with Ruby a bit and ask her exactly how much bread does she figure I'll need to make for one hundred people. "Oh, about ten loaves" she says. But the good news is that the kitchen has double pans, so I only need to make five!

Not being one to shirk my duty (and still being inhabited by that alien) I set to work.

Let me explain something here. Usually, when I make bread I follow a double recipe (six cups of flour and other ingredients). I mix it up with the required liquid, then split it in half and put one half in a big baggie in the fridge to be baked later. This is always a most manageable amount of dough.

But here I am, preparing to work with six, not three cups of flour. Five times. And, because I've been my usual blabby self, everyone here is expecting fresh bread for dinner. I buckle down, find five big bowls and get to mixing. After everything is mixed, I cover them and take them to a toasty spot in the kitchen, cover them with clean towels, and hope for the best.

Did I mention that after I had them all mixed, it was brought to my attention that the kitchen's yeast had an expiration date of 2003? I had proofed the yeast so I just said c'est la vie and decided to hope for the best.

I came back some forty five minutes later to find the dough perfectly risen, so I'm starting to feel kind of sassy.

I take the first bowl and dump the contents on a work table. Damn, that's a lot of dough! Could this really only be twice the amount of dough I usually work with? Truly, it seemed like some horror movie, possibly "Kitchen Blob" or maybe "the Dough that Ate Abiquiu".

Or maybe it's that alien again.

Finally, I look at the bread pans. These are unlike any bread pans I've ever used. They're like french bread loaf pans, long and thin. When I say long, I mean maybe eighteen inches. How am I ever supposed to get the dough into any kind of loaf-ish shape and transfer it into one of these pans? Surely these weren't meant for my bread?

But, of course they were. So I thought for a while and finally figured out that if I split the dough in half and then placed two pieces in each pan, I could sort of pinch them together and maybe they'd rise into some semblance of a loaf of bread.

And that's what I did. It was back under the towel for another rise, and into the ovens. My normal 450 degrees, a pan of water to crisp the crust and it was beginning to look like this was going to work. Maybe.

I decided to use my time to take a few shots of the dining room. Usually, there are so many people I can't get any decent pictures, but this was my chance.

This is the fireplace in the dining room.
This elk skull was found
in just this condition
by hikers on the ranch.

This is my favorite
of several stained glass windows
in the dining room.

By this time, thirty minutes have gone by, so it's time to look at the bread. It smells good . . .

But upon further inspection, I see that the tops are all burnt!

"Picture of Burnt Bread"
deleted by Kate
due to extreme shame

It's only been thirty minutes. Wow, this oven is hot! Usually, I cook my bread for at least forty five minutes. Upon taking them out, the bread looks good (if you discount the black tops), so what to do?

First off, I guess I should have remembered that not all ovens are created equal. It would seem that 450 degrees in a commercial oven is a LOT hotter than 450 degrees in the motorhome oven. And why didn't I think of that?

By now, it's almost 5:30, dinner time. 100 hungry people.

I take a long look and realize it's only the top that is burnt, the sides and bottom are fine. I look at Ruby, bless her heart, and she says it looks good to her. Lets just cut off the burnt part and slice it up and serve it.

And that's exactly what we did.

And you know what? Everyone loved it. Why, many folks said it was the best bread they'd ever eaten. Of course I neglected to ask them if they'd ever had home made bread before, not wishing to push my luck.

And just as we were finishing dinner, Ruby came out and asked if I wanted to do it again next week.

And that alien piped right up and said "Sure, I can do that!".

1 comment:

Suzanne LD Wannabe said...

What a brave soul you are!! Glad they came out OK despite the little burnt part. And you're going to do it again??? Tell that little alien to shut up.