Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. – Andy Warhol
I was supposed to be working on a post about the incredibly tasty Beer Cheese Brat Potato Soup I made the other day. However, I am currently visiting my mother’s house for Thanksgiving and managed to leave the scrap piece of paper containing my recipe scribbles at home. I might be able to remember it, but in the meantime, something else came to mind.
As I was designing a holiday post for Changing Seasonings Facebook page, I found the graphic above. It reminded me of the amazing Montana vacation I recently returned from. The owner of the cabin where we stayed had a drawer full of real silverware that was meant for everyday use. They were mismatched from many different sets and a bit tarnished. I didn’t ask her, but I imagine she just picks up pieces from various shops full of unique items when she’s traveling. The second thing I thought to myself after discovering them (the first being, “how beautiful!”), was “why in the world do I keep my silverware in a box, in a china cabinet, that rarely gets used??”
When I was young, the china and silver was brought out on special occasions, typically Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The table artfully set to the specifications of Miss Manners or whoever the etiquette writer of the time was. The place settings were beautiful. It was still a time when couples chose a china pattern when planning their wedding, or received their great grandparents set as a gift and relished it. And, then they tucked it in a china cabinet, maybe displaying a few pieces, and brought it out for special occasions. I have a set that was handed down to me. As I sit here typing this, I can’t even recall whose it was and what the pattern looks like (though I think it’s blue).
As for our more recent holiday meals, my family has opted for less time washing dishes and more time playing games. That means dishes have been machine washable or even, paper (gasp!). Funny thing is, as I was typing this post, my mother announced that since there were less of us here this Thanksgiving she was getting out the nice stuff. I giggled inwardly because she had no idea I was working on this.
Anyway, our cabin owner’s regular use of something that historically has been thought of as “special” made me wonder, “isn’t everyday special?” Life moves so incredibly fast. Our children grow up quickly, and time with older relatives never seems long enough. Waiting to use items until the occasion implies worthiness, devalues all of the things that are part of our everyday lives.
My plan is to pull out the box of silver I have and use it. I am going to watch for quirky, beautiful and unique pieces in shops that I wander through, buy them, and, you guessed it, use them. I am going to dig out some of the beautiful china pieces I have and put them to use, even if it is just a creamer or a serving dish now and then. I want my own children to be excited to have family dinnerware and silver passed down to them, and that won’t happen if they don’t have happy memories of using them.
I often tell people I am a cook, not a baker. I think the biggest reason is that baking requires more precise use of ingredients; measuring, proofing, rising, etc. and I am a “toss a little of this and a little of that in” kind of girl. I am not very patient either. Waiting for something to chill or rise makes me stir crazy. It’s not that I don’t like all things baked, I do. I just would be happy if someone else did the preparation. This is my predicament. I love the smell of fresh baked breads. I love eating cookies when they are still gooey, and bread when the butter melts and drips down my hand. And, I love steamy pies with a scoop of icy cold ice cream melting beside. So, sometimes I bake.
In addition to patience and precision, baking takes skill. Now, I think I have the skills needed, and I certainly know where to go if I feel I’m lacking knowledge. Other than the ever-ready brilliance of Siri and Alexa (what would we do without our phones and Echo type devices?), I can always call my mother. See, baking, in our family, seemed to skip generations. My great grandmother baked, my mother bakes, and my own daughter bakes. Me, not so much.
How happy I was to find an easy recipe for making one of my favorite breads: the bread bowl. As soup season is upon us here in the mid-west, for many soup recipes, the bread bowl is a considerably better vessel for serving than any dish in the cupboard. Where I live, typical bakeries are those in the grocery and big box store. Occasionally, a vendor at the Farmers Market has baked goods, but that is hit and miss. It was time I learned to make them myself. This recipe was so easy, my 3 year old granddaughter, Adilyn, helped the first time.
The bowls turned out great. Even though they weren’t exactly uniform in shape, the not too dense yet chewy texture and yeasty flavor were perfect. After they cooled, I stored them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days. When I was ready to use them, I baked them at 350 degrees directly on the rack for about ten minutes until warmed through and the crusts were crunchy again.
The recipe isn’t mine. Credit belongs to The Baker Upstairs. A few tips though: I let the yeast proof a full ten minutes before adding the dry ingredients. I used a mixture of bread flour and all-purpose flour. Not for any particular reason other than when I first made the recipe, I didn’t have 3 1/2 cups of bread flour. But, it worked, so I continued with the half bread flour, half all-purpose flour. I kneaded the bread for nearly ten minutes the first time because I had a little person helping. It only took about 5-6 minutes to get the dough smooth the next time. I use a silicone baking mat on my baking sheets. Foods brown perfectly and don’t stick to the pan.
- 1½ cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3½ cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour, I used a mixture)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Spray bottle with warm water
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let sit 10 minutes, or until bubbly and foamy.
- Add 3 cups of flour and the salt, and mix well.
- Add remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is only slightly sticky to the touch.
- Knead until smooth, 5-10 minutes.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a warm, damp towel, and let rise 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 500.
- Punch the dough down and divide into 4 equal sized pieces.
- Shape each piece into a ball and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
- Score the top of each piece and sprinkle with salt.
- Spray with warm water and let rise 15 minutes.
- Bake in preheated oven for 2 minutes, then spray again with water and reduce the heat to 425. Bake 16-18 more minutes, or until golden brown.
Other than being great bread bowls, this simple recipe just makes good bread. I didn’t need all of the bowls I made the other day so, one loaf was just eaten warm with butter. The other loaf was sliced and became garlic bread for a pasta meal. After buttering the slices and topping with grated parmesan, I sprinkled on Changing Seasonings Bread Dippin’ blend then baked. Tasty!