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Like Bread for Massage

By Anonymous in Food on Jun 3, 2005 12:41AM

Chicagoist was really looking forward to the hot stone massage we scheduled. Not to go into too much personal detail, but we seemed to have started to get a little high blood pressure lately, and thought getting regular massages might be a good way to relieve some tension and relax a little more. Our dad thinks the high blood pressure is genetic, but in reality, we got it the old fashioned way…we earned it. So imagine our irritation after checking in for the massage when we are told that the massage therapist had called in sick and our appointment was cancelled. Smoke actually emanated from our ears. “We tried to call you earlier, but figured you must have left your house already.” Caller ID is a great thing…when we got home, we saw that they had called 24 minutes before the appointment. Nice. If it had been the other way around, we would have been charged for the appointment. They had asked if we wanted them to check their suburban locations for openings, because nothing is more relaxing than sitting in traffic for an hour before and after a nice massage. Storming back to the parking garage we got madder and madder. To top it off, we used the garage near the Sun Times crater, and the jackhammers added to the already pleasant day, not to mention, no Bill Rancic in sight (Bill, call us!). We needed something to punch. How about bread?

The great thing about bread is you can take your aggressions out on it, and in the end no one is hurt and you have something delicious to snack on. Unless you have some kind of Like Water for Chocolate thing going on out there…then yes, there could be trouble for your angrily-made bread.

Whole Wheat French Bread

Chicagoist knows there are many of you out there who love your bread machines, but there is something rewarding about making your own bread (plus bragging rights with friends). There are so many recipes to choose from, but we’ll give you one of our favorites for French bread. This one doesn’t require any kneading or punching down, unfortunately, but we chose it because it’s an easy first recipe for those of you who may be intimidated by making bread, and it has optional ways of baking.

You will need:
1 T. yeast (or 1 package of yeast if you purchase in packets)
¼ t. sugar
2 C. warm water (water must be 105-115 degrees F)
2 T. raw sugar or honey (we use honey)
1 ½ t. salt, optional
2 T. oil (we use olive)
4 ½ C. whole wheat flour OR if you prefer white French bread, use 5 C. white flour. For wheat, nothing beats King Arthur’s flour…little more expensive, but worth it. (Thanks for the rec, Dad!).

Many recipes will ask you to dissolve the yeast in water you’ve already placed in the bowl with the flour…we don’t. If the yeast doesn’t work, you’ve wasted everything. We recommend using a small bowl to mix the yeast, sugar, and ¼ water to make sure it works. Yeast should start bubbling and get foamy. If it does, it’s working. If not, throw out and start again.

Put the flour in a large bowl and make a “basin” in the middle. Pour in the balance of the water and add the honey, oil, salt and the small bowl of the yeast mixture, then mix everything together. Cover the bowl with a towel and stir dough at 10 minute intervals 5 times (or if you have a mixer with a dough hook, mix it five consecutive times at 10-minute intervals). After the 50 minutes is up, turn dough onto lightly floured surface and divide in half. Shape the dough into two balls, cover with a towel, and let rest 10 minutes.

Roll each ball into a 12” x 9” rectangle. Then roll firmly like a jelly roll, starting with the long side. Seal edges by pinching and tucking under the ends of the bread. Place rolls on a well-greased baking sheet or French loaf pans (they do a GREAT job of making the crust crusty, and the insides soft). Make six diagonal slashes across the top of each roll. Brush with cold water and let rise until almost double (30-60 minutes). Bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when you tap the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow. Cool on a wire rack. Most recipes will tell you not to cut the bread until it is completely cooled, but this is sadistic. There is nothing better than fresh, hot bread smeared with butter and honey, or dipped in olive oil and grated parmesan.

Options: You can also bake this in two small loaf pans, or one big loaf pan, same prep and oven time for either. You can also add seeds like sunflower, sesame, and poppy, or herbs like minced garlic, rosemary, basil & oregano when you first mix all of the ingredients together.

You’ll be happy to know that Chicagoist was able to relax by walking the dogs in the nearest park while the bread was rising. Yes, if we can’t get the hot stone massage we reserved with a credit card TWO WEEKS EARLIER, then picking up dog poo should do the trick. We’re living the lives of supermodels, we tell ya. Just make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before eating the bread. (We did subsequently receive a free massage from the spa!).