Monday, April 05, 2004

I did decide to make my own pain de mie, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II.. Pain de mie is a French sandwich bread, baked for the inside crumb instead of the outside crust- you even put a baking sheet with a brick on top of it over the loaf pan to keep it from rising above that, resulting in an even rectangular loaf. It's for times you want square slices of crustless bread- for hors d'oeuvres or tea sandwiches or whatnot. Julia claims it's impossible to get the proper bread for hors d'oeuvres in this country without baking it yourself, so I figured I'd see if she was right.

The only mistake was starting it at 8 PM. The kneading was a snap in my food processor, and I made it through the first rise, but then had to go to bed. I craftily took my kitchen timer to bed with me, and when it went off the first time I spent more minutes than I care to admit trying to make my alarm clock stop. Jeff was out at a show, too, so then there was the worry he'd turn the oven off while I was preheating, or while the bread was baking. Or that I'd, you know, burn my apartment down. (The heat did actually set the smoke detector off in the guest bedroom. How, I know not. But anyway.)

Nothing burned, the bread came out, and looked possibly burnt. The crust was super hard. I was nervous. I went to bed and Jeff came home soon after, and tried to help by covering the still very warm bread with saran wrap. The next morning he got awakened by a (loud) science lesson on warm objects, condensation, and the collapse of my loaf of bread.

The loaf sliced up beautifully anyway, and once the crust was cut off the collapse of the top wasn't noticeable. The interior was perfect- firm and dense and with a solidness about it (but it didn't taste solid). I made half my sandwiches with it, and the other half with Home Pride white bread, and the store bought stuff was too spongy and light and holey. Every time I sliced a slice in half for the tea sandwiches, the sides around the knife would collapse inward a bit. So yes, Julia was right.

Also, I made the best pimiento cheese I've ever made. Homemade mayonnaise makes all the difference, and I ate far too much of it with Triscuits yesterday.

Saturday night I made the beef saute from The Way To Cook. Some leftover steak was in the freezer, so it was an inexpensive (mushrooms, onions, and potatoes for less than $5 at Whole Foods, everything else was either a staple like heavy cream, butter, or vermouth or something I had growing on the balcony like tarragon) and (for Julia) fast meal. 40 minutes is not too shabby, and it was really, really good.

Sometimes I think I come off a bit obnoxious with my homemade this and organic that- I was at dinner a few weeks ago and a friend mentioned this great lemongrass tea she'd picked up, and my response, "Oh, I should try to make some. I made some lemongrass essence the other week.." didn't elicit a "that's so normal" reaction. It was more of a "Guys. Did you hear what Hannah just said? She made her own LEMONGRASS ESSENCE." I know it's not normal, and I do it anyway, because I like to. The point of this whole digression was to say that this weekend, for the first time in a year or so, I bought all my produce at Ralphs. And it may be high horse of me to say so, but never again. Why would I pay MORE for tomatoes kept in a refrigerator case and suspicious looking asparagus from who knows where? I can go to the Farmer's Market and a)pay less, b) support my local farmers and most importantly c)get astronomically better tasting produce. Should I forget to get something there, I'll still go instead to Whole Foods or Bristol Farms, whose produce costs aren't that much more than Ralphs (the aforementioned $5 meal was Whole Foods, after all) and who know better than to put a tomato in a refrigerator case.