Sunday, February 6, 2011

Give Us This Day; The Purge, the Drip and the Country Loaf

A few weeks ago I was prowling the blogospere and landed myself smack in the middlebit of someone's post about the urge to organize their household.  Blah, blah, blah, visions of neatly stacked cabinets and efficient pantries purged of anything get the idea.  My point?  I was barely able to finish the article fast enough as I sat there quivering, half a cheek on my barstool, with the urge to make-over the space underneath my bathroom sink.  I know, I organizing project involving half empty bottles of lotion and more Clinique Bonus Time lipstick than any girl should admit to possessing is not the kind of thing that should send my body into shivers of excitement...but I digress.

Armed with a paper bag and a recycle bin, I firmly believe that the bathroom is the next frontier of recycling.  You would never think of tossing an empty ketchup bottle into the trash but shampoo bottles get trashed all the time.  Put a recycle bin in your bathroom people!...again, with the digression...I headed into the master bath to rid myself of some under cabinet clutter.

My first step was to remove everything from under the sink.  Not to glance over the collection and push aside the things I knew were staying like the hair dryer and the box of panty liners, but to actually take everything out of the cabinet and survey it in the light of the bathroom.   As I reached into the darkness of the "way back" my fingers closed around something cold and wet and the unmistakable odor of mildew stung my nostrils and my pride.  Thoroughly disgusted I discovered a small puddle, a pile of soaked tampons (absorbent little suckers), and determined that we had a drippy pipe under the sink. 

I immediately employed "the bucket technique" and moved forward with my organizing project.  This is where the organizing part of the story concludes.  Please note that I was able to reduce the contents of the cabinet by tossing recycling half empty bottles of stuff I don't use and freeing myself of several lipsticks that I could only imagine wearing to a Halloween party.  Very freeing.  And, if I had not taken on this project, who knows how long the drip drip drip of neglect would have continued, possibly causing expensive damage.

When the Father got home, I described our little issue in the bathroom.  Do not read my meaning to be "I described the sink problem to my extremely handy husband and was so glad when he came home so he could fix it in a jiffy," because that is not accurate.  My husband is extremely talented but not in the mysterious ways of the pipe and the wrench.  He can get 1,000 people to breathe in unison with a flick of his baton, but  he is dangerous with a hammer or a wrench.  My purpose for telling him was to rant about how the last time I called a plumber to fix the drippy spigot in the backyard, the butt crack displaying, late arriving, deodorant boycotting pipe doctor that showed up at my door replaced a 15 cent plastic washer and charged me $90!  And no, I'm not over it, thankyouverymuch!

My point in describing our plumbing predicament was to ask him if he minded me putting out a distress call on Facebook to see if one of our friends could come to my aid.  Intrigued by my plan to save us $90, he told me to go for it.  Almost immediately the offers of assistance started coming in...we have such wonderful friends...and within the week my friend brought her husband over to diagnose our drippy dillema.

What was supposed to be a little fix, in my ignorant assessment at least, turned into him making a trip to the local hardware store for a 15 cent washer which it turns out you can't buy separately from the entire drain housing, which he bought and offered to install for me.  So now I was into this guy sweet husband friend for his time and the money he spent on the parts I needed...sigh.  "Sure I'll install it for you, " he said cheerfully.  "Let me just get the sink taken apart."  Oh God, I've destroyed his Sunday afternoon and now he needs a simple wrench from the toolbox which I'm pretty sure we don't have, but I'll put on my slippers and go out to the arctic garage anyway just to make a show of effort.

So it turned out that we made a plan for him to return the following week and finish the job.  We continued to employ the highly effective "bucket technique" and he did restore complete function to our drain.  And before you even think it, the Country Loaf part of this story does NOT refer to my husband who grew up the sheltered son of a physician who very responsibly called a plumber when he discovered a drip and consequently did not prepare his boy for basic home maintenance of any kind.  The Country Loaf, or Loaves as the story more accurately goes, were the beginning of a long list of culinary reparations that I will be making to this man and his patient family as repayment for his prowess with a pipe and drain.  He came in the door with a wrench and I sent him out the door with three Moroccan Country Loaves.

Moroccan Country Bread 
(or Khubz Maghrebi, pronounced cubz ma-grebby, so you sound exotic and cheffy)

An impossibly short list of ingredients, adapted from Cooking Light, and a simple set of directions provides you with three loaves of simple, rustic bread.  No kneading in this one shortens the time commitment.

1 1/2  packages dry yeast or 1 tablespoon
2 1/2  cups warm water
7 cups all purpose flour
3  teaspoons  kosher salt (or sea salt, or regular salt.  Don't let the wrong salt be the reason you fear this recipe.)
Cooking spray
1  tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil

1.  In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  In another bowl measure 7 cups of your flour and whisk the salt into the flour.  Gradually add the flour to the yeast mixture, stirring well with a wooden spoon, until the dough forms a ball.  It may get difficult to mix near the end but resist the temptation to knead the remaining flour into this dough ball.  You'll know you're done when you've got a nice ball of dough that's not sticking to the sides of the bowl.  If you've got some flour left over, just free yourself of the guilt, hide the evidence and toss it in the garbage.  Problem solved!

2.  Turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface, roll it into a log shape and divide it into three equal portions.  Again, resist the urge to knead and manipulate the dough here.  The less you play with it, the more crumbly it will be and for this bread, that's a good thing.  Shape each portion into a round by turning the edges under and place them on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  The silicone baking mat works here too.  They will increase in size when baked but not too much, so it is possible to nestle them all together on the same baking sheet if you must.  Lightly coat the tops of the loaves with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place for an hour or until a dent remains when you poke your loaf.  Heh, heh.  Poke your loaf...sorry.

3.  Move your oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4.  Uncover your loaves, brush, or glop, the tops with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes.  The loaves will not get brown but they should sound kind of hollow when you thump them.

This bread has a very mild, yeasty flavor.  Frankly, it's not great when eaten by itself.  Perfect for soaking up the juices from a spicy soup, or pushing bits of curry onto your fork, this bread is a wonderful compliment to Middle Eastern dishes.  Morocco, go figure!  Or, if you're pooped out from the effort of the bread, it is fantastic when accompanied by a can of Progresso!

If you're looking for the other bread recipes in this collection , go here, and here.

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