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Monthly Archives: May 2010

Beer in my belly: A recipe for the road

Beer in my belly: A recipe for the road

This puppy is coming with me.

I have been trying to perfect this recipe from scratch ever since my mom brought home an AMAZING mix for beer bread. It was truly phenomenal. Locally milled flour made it taste even better, but somehow there was something not quite as satisfying when saying, “I made it from a mix.” I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the 50’s housewife in me raring her perfectly coiffed head to shout (demurely), “Baking from scratch is the only way to bake!” So, a few beer bread mixes later, a number of failed attempts and one or two blind taste tests, I have honed the recipe to one that I believe is in the same league as the original (squirm) “mix” bread.

And it is excruciatingly simple.

You’ll never make another bread without thinking of the simplicity of this one. And when you eat an entire loaf in less time than in takes to drink a Fat Tire, you don’t need to feel bad because you can have another loaf piping hot from the oven in less than an hour. Now, down to the deets:

Classy Drunk Bread

  • 3 C self-rising flour*
  • ½ cups sugar (don’t scrimp)
  • 1 12 oz beer (this is classy beer bread, use the microbrew, it packs a sweeter punch in flavor)
  • Few Tbsp melted butter (the mix called for ½ a cup, but I find a few tbsp to be just as good)

*You can make your own self-rising flour. However, when I did it, I found the taste to be lacking. A little too salty and maybe a little more dense? I still haven’t perfected the measurements, but this is the common technique: for each cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt. (I would consider adding less salt next time.) Mix to combine.

Preheat oven to 375. Sift or spoon flour into measuring cup and carefully level off. Don’t put in too much flour or the result will be dense. Add sugar, and then beer, room temperature if possible. Mix, but do not overmix! Just mix until everything is barely combined in a sticky glob. Dump into a well-greased loaf pan (or skillet…I love the skillet bread). If you are dying to spend more time on this bread, consider letting it rest for 30 minutes. It will rise and become a little lighter. Not necessary, but delicious. Then, pour a few tablespoons of butter (or ½ cup if you feel like being decadent) over the bread. Yes, pour it over the unbaked loaf. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Don’t burn your tongue, but enjoy it warm! Is it possible that this bread tastes even better the morning after? Hair of the dog….if it lasts that long…

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There’s a Stranger Who Loves Me!

There’s a Stranger Who Loves Me!

Ahhh, it has been awhile since I have had a good story to share. And now, I do. And also, I have the yeasty sweet aromas of baking bread coming from my oven (this is attempt number 3 of a beer bread recipe that I am trying to perfect before sharing it). Life sure is good.

I visited my assisted living home for the first time in more than a month yesterday. Two weeks before I leave on a journey to New York, I simply couldn’t leave without saying goodbye again, at least figuratively. But I put it off for a while, and there’s reason why (although misguided) that I was nervous.

It’s such a small, interconnected world. When one of my residents passed away recently, I heard through four different sources about it. Three friends and coworkers let me know via phone and in person, and a fourth coworker let me know yesterday. I was at the gym, powering away on the elliptical. Oblivious to all events around me, I was totally focused on the magazine in front of me – intently trying to decipher the tiny words from the vantage of my bouncing eyeballs. A disembodied voice said, “Hi Rachel!” I looked up, a little brain muddled. It was a med tech that I recognized from work. We chit-chatted. She let me know about Addie’s* passing, and then told me a funny story. Something like this: The med tech, we’ll call her Cassie, knew that I had given all of my residents hand-painted picture frames when I left as a small token of my love and appreciation for our time spent together. Clearly, I didn’t expect many of my residents to remember where these picture frames hailed from. But this story beat my expectations, hands down. Cassie observed the picture frame of one resident while she was passing medications. This resident has a funny memory – sometimes it’s fairly shoddy (like when she calls to go to the bathroom 10 times in an hour or asks you the same question 3 times, once a minute) but other times it’s great and she’s sharp at a tack. This was not one of those times. Cassie asked her, “This is pretty. Who gave you this nice picture frame?” Nelly* responded, “Oh, well, actually it’s actually interesting. I didn’t even know her. This nice young lady just gave it to me. I have no idea who she is.” Cassie smiled and with a little glint in her eyes followed up with, “Wow, that’s so nice. You know, everyone who meets you, loves you so much. Even strangers!” Nelly agreed with her. And then Cassie laughed and said, “No silly, Rachel gave it to you, don’t you remember?” Nelly thought about it and replied, “No, I don’t remember her. She must be new.”

I love that story. I wish Cassie hadn’t even told her that someone had given it to her that she should remember. I love that Nelly just agreed that a stranger must love her, and therefore she had given her a present. As simple as that. Why not? I wish I could give presents to strangers! I wish I could receive birthday gifts without worrying about whether I had remembered the gifter’s own birthday the previous year. Total enjoyment of a gift. But that’s a tangent. The ultimate message to me? Old people can teach young people so much. My Lifespan Psychology textbook claimed that the perception of old people as being wise was really just a stereotype and possibly a myth. I think that’s just baloney (although for the most part, that textbook rocked). But that part was false. Old people ARE wise. I learned a lot from them.

So, walking into the assisted living home, I was less fearful of not being remembered and just plain excited to be there and let memories and good feelings wash over me. My old supervisor, the assisted living coordinator, promised me that they would try to get a good turnout for social so I could lead it, just like old times. Who woulda’ thunk that I would miss mega-sized crossword puzzles and word games so darn much? After playing the same game at least 21 times, I certainly didn’t think so, but I was oh-so-wrong. I walked in and immediately the eyes of a few residents lit up.It was so obvious, I didn’t even have to pretend to see it! I wasn’t forgotten, and to be honest, it felt great. I don’t absolutely need this sort of recognition, but I sure do love it. I gave a million hugs and felt really overwhelmed with emotion. A huge lump in my throat that didn’t leave until…oh wait, I think it may still be there lingering…

I led the group in solving a crossword puzzle. Then we played another word game with the word SEREDIPITOUSLY (forming smaller words from the bigger word). I had boundless energy and it felt amazing to be there. I was able to convince one of my old residents to attend social that typically never attends. She said she would come because I made it a special occasion. She hugged me and told me she loved me. And then she pretty much spaced out and half-napped for the majority of social, but hey, at least she was out of her room! And every time  I looked her way, she blew me a kiss. Aww….

When social was over I went to visit my more independent resident, Marlene, who I used to have hydros with every Monday evening. She was lying on her bed when I knocked and entered. I announced and addressed myself, but it turned out to be totally unnecessary. She remembered me 100%. I sat next to her and held her hand and we talked about everything from which residents had passed away, to my moving preparations. We were gossiping just like we would do in the hyrdo room. It felt like I was visiting my grandma. I didn’t realize the depth and importance of these relationships really were until I came back. How lucky I was to meet these incredible people!

When I think about the passing of my special resident, Addie, I don’t feel devastated. Compared to when I lost my first resident, this feels like a completely different experience. While Addie may have deteriorated quickly, making it still somewhat shocking to everyone, it was her time to go. She had been fighting a blood clot for a long time, and apparently her memory and temperament had taken a sharp turn for the worse in the short month that I had been gone. I miss her. I wish I could have seen her again. I freeze for a moment when I think that I never get to look at her face again, or hear her voice. But letting go also feels natural. She lived a wonderful life. She told me herself how blessed she was in every way. I know that I aspire to live a life as full and satisfying as she did.

*Names changed for privacy

 

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Klickity Klack Kittity Kat

We had our going away party this weekend. It was such a great event. All of our friends and family (excluding my favorite sister) helped us celebrate the next big step in our lives, and were kind enough to partake of the fancy appetizers we provided at the wine bar, and of the desserts we baked and brought. While our friends were there to celebrate us, the real celebrity of the evening were the so-called Kit Kat Bars* that my mom baked. They seriously stole the show. Amid well wishes and hugs, there were requests for the recipe to be emailed asap. I’ll do one better than that by posting it for the world to woo. I seriously vouch for these little guys…they weaseled their way through my low-sugar diet and stole my heart.

*Who named these kit kat bars? The only kit kat bar aspect of them is the appearance. But they have a serious identity crisis and I hereby identify them as Layered Peanut Butter Twix.

Here they be:

Identity Crisis Candy Bars

Originally encountered by: My lovely sister Sarah

Ingredients:

  • 60 buttery crackers, such as Keebler Club Crackers
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

Preparation:

  • Generously butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. Line with a layer of crackers.
  • In a small saucepan, bring butter, sugars and milk together to a boil over medium heat. Stir in crushed graham crackers. Let boil 5 minutes.
  • Pour half of the sugar mixture over the crackers. Cover with another layer of crackers, pressing down lightly. Pour remaining syrup mixture over crackers, smoothing to coat.
  • Top with a third layer of crackers, pressing lightly.
  • Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in a small saucepan, or over a double boiler.
  • Pour evenly over the top layer of crackers, making sure the crackers are completely covered.
  • Refrigerate until kit kat bars are firm. Cut in kit kat bar shape and style.

Makes 36 kit kat bars.

Simply Glorious

And of course, my sister’s cake truffles made an appearance at our party. In allllll sorts of different colors.

Luvin the Sprinkes

Simply white tastes just as sweet

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2010 in Desserts

 

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