Friday, November 18, 2011

Giving Thanks Cinnamon Bread

In Nicholas Kristof’s recent article, “Girls Just Want to Go to School,” he tells the story of Vietnam’s Dao Ngoc Phung, a malnourished 14-year old girl who is raising her siblings. Her mother has died, and her father must travel long distances for work so she must be the family’s mother.

Yet, despite the odds, Phung gets up at 3AM to study each day. She dreams of being an accountant.

This story, like so many of Kristof’s stories, inspired me and forced me to question: How can we live a life where we keep Phung’s story in mind?

This year, I’m turning my Thanksgiving into more of a New Year’s box of resolutions. I want to give thanks for what I already have.  I want to complain less and appreciate more. And I want to slow down and weed out the things that really don’t matter like un-vacuumed floors and responding to every email. (Those are on the same plane for me.)

Instead, I want to make more time for my family. And for patience. And for thinking of people like Phung. And for baking bread like this one below.

Andy and I like to make this cinnamon raison bread and give it out to friends. I call it happiness swirl bread. My friend Cindy calls a cinnamon bun in disguise. Whatever you call it, I hope that you find time to make it and to do whatever else truly matters in your life. We’ve got it pretty good….

Brown Sugar-Raisin Bread (adapted from William Sonoma Bread)
Makes two 9-by-5- inch loaves

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups warm water
1 cup warm milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus a bit more for greasing
1 tablespoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
6 cups bread flour, plus a bit more for kneading
1 ½ cups raisins

For the filling:
2/3 cup brown sugar mixed with 4 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon

Mix the yeast with a ½ cup of the water and a sprinkle of sugar. Let rest about 10 minutes or until bubbly.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine yeast mixture with remaining water, remaining sugar, salt, egg, milk, and 2 cups of flour. For about 1 minute, beat on medium speed. Add ½ cup flour and raisins. Beat in remaining flour, ½ cup at a time. Dough should be moist and pulling away from the sides of the mixer

Switch to dough hook and mix on medium-low for about 4 more minutes. Hand kneed for a few more minutes and turn dough into large greased bowl. Cover bowl loosely in plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled.

Grease two 9-by-5 inch bread pans. Divide dough in half and roll each piece out onto floured surface into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle rectangles with cinnamon-sugar mixture and roll into logs, pinching ends to seal sugar in. Place each log seam-side down in a prepared pan. Let rise for an hour or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Bake for about 35 minutes or until loaves are golden. Turn bread out onto racks. When cool, slice into and spread with butter. Think happy thoughts.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cold Weather Curry

It’s the time of year that I dream about cooking. Telluride's morning temperatures hover around 10 ºF, yet there's not enough snow to ski. If you asked me, I'd probably lie and tell you that I love off-season in Telluride. The truth, however, hovers somewhere in between that and late night searches for cheap flights to someplace tropical. What exactly I’d do with my job or my family if I found a $400 flight to Fiji isn’t really important; the thrill is in the hunt.

Barring the discovery of cheap travel to someplace warm, I’ll continue to dream about and actually make curries. Curries allow me to remember. I smell the salt and the spice and the heat of Thailand, and I remember a favorite day I spent with Andy years ago.

In the memory, the day begins as all of the best mornings do: at the market. There are baskets of chilies, mangoes, and coconuts everywhere we turn. The smell is somewhat smoky—grilled squid, somewhat sweet like tamarind, and somewhat stinky—call it durian meets dried fish. The essence of Thailand.

This dish is a variation of a curry I learned in a Chiang Mai cooking class over a decade ago. Make it while you wait for the snow to fall and the skiing to begin. May it carry you away to a warmer place.

Chicken Green Curry

serves 4


12 oz boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
2 cans of coconut milk (keep 2 tablespoons to use as a garnish, don’t shake the cans)
3 tablespoons green curry paste ( we like Mae Ploy, but Thai Kitchen is fine)
1/2 cup of Thai eggplants sliced in half (if you can find them)
1 small can of bamboo shoots
2 tablespoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves (or 1 tablespoon of lime juice)
1 handful of sweet basil leaves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced (optional)

Scoop 3 tablespoons of the thick coconut milk into a hot wok. Stir continuously until the milk separates and forms an oil. It’s very important to smile as you do this, or the oil won’t separate. Add curry paste and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken and fry until the outside of the chicken turns white. Then add the rest of the coconut milk (minus the 2 T for the final garnish), the fish sauce, sugar, lime leaves, red peppers, and eggplants. Simmer until the eggplants and peppers are thoroughly cooked. Add half of the basil leaves and simmer for another minute.

Serve with steamed rice. Garnish with a few basil leaves, sliced jalapenos, and the reserved coconut milk.