Monday, November 10, 2008
a hot loaf from the oven...
Yesterday afternoon I took a break from my winterizing frenzy to begin the long process of making this week's twd recipe, kugelhopf, from Yolanda of The All Purpose Girl. The dough came together easily, and it kept me awake longer than usual since it requires periodic monitoring and slapping, yes, slapping.
The sunrise and my alarm clock came too early and too chilly this morning. My friend H arrived at 6:30 and we headed out for our Monday morning run along Lake Michigan, and changed our return route to take in a stop at a cute little coffee shop. We walked the rest of the way to my house sipping steaming coffee in the twenty degree chill, and chatted about the week ahead before she left for home and I prepared for the day. On Wednesday mornings, I drive to her house for a run along another stretch of the Lake. We've pledged to continue these early morning jaunts through the winter, though I can imagine blustery days when it will take something stronger than a cafe au lait and a brisk jog to drag me out of bed!
After a long day at work wringing my hands because my lovely composition students are posting to the class blog and *not* citing sources in their entries, I returned home to check on the dough and set it out of the cold confines of the fridge. I did not order a kugelhopf pan--a gorgeous fluted tube style baking pan. My tube pan is huge, and bundt pans too cute, so I opted for my emile henri loaf pan. I patiently waited while the dough rose, attending to a quick chili and a pan of corn bread.
Finally, as I read student rough drafts in which the citations did not follow any of the *rules* I provided, I placed the risen (?) dough in the oven. After 10 minutes, the elemental smell of yeast blanketed me, and I faced a conundrum: what is better--the smell of chocolate baking or of bread? I might equivocate and say chocolate bread, like the babka my friend N and I made at Christmas time two years ago, eating thick slices and drinking a King Estate Pinot Noir she brought from Oregon.
The kugelhopf continued to rise and to brown, and I finally removed it from the oven after about 25 minutes total baking time. I quickly unmolded it, spooned melted butter over the golden edges, and sprinkled with raw sugar. I ate a piece of crust that stuck in the pan and thought of brioche. The texture, so light and airy; the flavor so delicate and rich; the dried cranberries, soaked in maker's mark bourbon, so tart-sweet.
While my cake cooled, I finished reading "Fecundity," from Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for class tomorrow, one of the darkest chapters in the entire text. I thought of my student who just lost her grandfather and want to tell her not to read. I want the rest of my students to crack open their dictionaries or go online and learn Dillard's vocabulary of memento mori and anathema and fecundity itself...
And then I checked the cake, which was nicely cooled, and I sprinkled just one corner with powdered sugar, and cut a narrow slice. I fixed an earl grey latte, a neat trick from H: steam milk with honey and brew half a cup of earl grey tea; combine and enjoy. The floral overtones of the bergamot infused tea nicely highlighted the subtle flavor of the cake.
In all honesty, I wasn't thrilled about this week's recipe, but after baking, I can say that I very much enjoyed the change of pace. Using my Kitchen Aid mixer, I hardly did any work transforming the raw ingredients into a queenly loaf. The cake, really more of a bread, is simple and the sort of thing I would serve at a holiday brunch or tea party. Or on a just-winter evening, with a tea latte, and a surfeit of words.
unmolded and not exactly pretty, but definitely delicious