Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday's Favorites, and White Sandwich Bread

This week's favorites are must-haves for every kitchen. I can guarantee that if you don't care for cooking, you will love to cook (or at least not hate it) if you have a sharp, high quality set of knives (like Wusthof) and a nice big wooden cutting board (like a Boos board). Almost all jobs in the kitchen can be done with these 3 knives, although a well-stocked kitchen would probably include a carving knife and fork, and perhaps a boning knife. And I really can't go without mentioning my Rada serrated tomato knife - you know the ones they sell at flea markets and church fundraisers for about $5. I love it for slicing - well - tomatoes.
Here's the lowdown: you need a chef's knife that feels comfortable in your hand, so go to the store and hold a few to see what you like. My chef's knife is a Wusthof 17 cm "santoku" knife which was popularized by Rachael Ray back in the days when I liked her (she annoys the you-know-what out of me now). It's a great all-purpose knife and I use it for all but the smallest jobs. For peeling and slicing up fruit I use a Wusthof 8 cm paring knife. And my latest purchase is the Wusthof 23 cm serrated knife. I bought this on a whim at Crate's All-Clad seconds sale and I'm so glad I did! I'm not sure how I lived without it. It slices bread like a dream! (see the recipe below). Keep your knives sharp by washing them by hand and using a honing stick almost every time you use it. I got mine from Amazon.
And don't forget a nice big wooden cutting board. Wooden cutting boards are not so hard on your knives so they'll stay sharp longer. I have a smaller cutting board which I use only for garlic and onions and I use my Boos board for everything else. It's a good idea to brush a little mineral oil on your board every so often to keep it in nice condition. I wash them with soap and hot water. Make an investment in these items and you will have them for years - you'll never be sorry!

Basic White Bread
adapted from Walter Sands' recipe in King Arthur Flour's 200th Anniversary Cookbook
Makes two loaves

2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp honey
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup dry milk (optional)
2 Tbsp butter, softened
6 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp salt

Pour the warm water into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the honey and yeast and stir to dissolve. When the yeast is bubbling, add the dry milk, softened butter, flour, and the salt. Mix with the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook until the dough comes together, about 5 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes, then knead again with the mixer and dough hook for another 3-4 minutes. The dough should be dry enough to not stick to the sides of the bowl, but moist enough so that the dough sticks a little to the bottom of the mixer bowl. Add flour or water 1 tablespoon at a time to obtain the right consistency.
Form the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl, turning the dough once so that the top of the dough is lightly greased as well. Cover it with plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel and place in a draft-free place. Let it rise until doubled in size and you can poke the dough with your finger and it doesn't spring back at you (usually at least 1 1/2 hours).
Deflate the dough gently and turn it out onto a floured board or counter and knead out any stray bubbles.
Cut the dough in half, form 2 loaves by folding in the sides and tucking the sides under the dough. Place them in 2 lightly greased bread pans. Cover the pans and let rise until doubled (about an hour). About 15 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place the loaves in the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven when nicely browned and sounds hollow when you tap it. Remove the bread from the pans and let cool completely on a wire cooling rack (so the bottom doesn't get soggy from the steam as it cools). Slice with your serrated bread knife. Freeze any portion you won't be able to use within a day or two.


  1. I love your new "weekly column". I'm sure you'd gag if you knew how I treat my knives...

  2. My Dad got me a big, huge honkin' knive set from QVC as a joke two years ago because I was down to two knives......I LOST knives!! I have no idea where they went!!?? I do need to upgrade at some point.....thanks for your insight.



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