Monday, September 27, 2010

cornmeal and pine nut bread

1. How can you transform any normally distributed random variable into the Standard Normal Distribution?
2. How has the pace been this week?
3. What is your foremost question or concern?

About once a week I ask my upper school students for some feedback using an activity called The Two Minute Drill, which I learned from an inspirational teacher several years ago. I give out small pieces of paper and ask three questions to gain feedback anonymously. The first question is always one that helps me assess whether students have understood what I've been teaching. The second asks them for some feedback on my teaching. And the third question is always the same: any concerns?

I send the class an email later, responding to the group with answers to their questions and comments. It's a useful process for them and for me. The best part for me recently was feedback about my pace of teaching. (Other times I ask about the difficulty level, the clarity of my explanations, or the amount of homework.) "The pace is just great," one student might say. "The lessons seem to go a bit too fast for me," another says. "Please go a bit more slowly! I didn't understand," a third student answers. I know that I tend to get excited about what I'm teaching and lose track of time. I rush too much and students get confused; this is an aspect of my teaching I am always working on.

Time management is not my strong point, it seems. This bread was, therefore, a bit of a struggle for me. With three rises, the total time taken to make it is much more that my fast-paced life seems to allow. I rushed home after work one day to make it, but still ended up staying up late to get it out of the oven after our bed time. (The weekend? you suggest. Somehow those seem to be just as packed! Hmm.) Perhaps life is too fast. It's certainly time to slow things down. It's time to listen to my students: "I'll understand better if you don't rush." And bread tastes better if it's not rushed, too.

This cornmeal bread was our monthly challenge for Fresh From the Oven, chosen by Becky of Fraxknits. She's not usually a food blogger, so head over to her blog to read recent posts about women science fiction writers and her "to done" list. Thanks, Becky, for the encouragement to slow down the pace!
Cornmeal Bread
makes 1 loaf
adapted from Bread by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter

5 T (50 g) cornmeal (polenta)
1 t (5 g) active dry yeast
1/2 t honey
1 c (125 g) plain bread flour, divided
3/4 c (90 g) whole wheat bread flour, divided
2 T (25 g) unsalted butter
3 T pine nuts
1 1/2 t salt

In a small saucepan, mix together the cornmeal and 1 c (250 ml) water.
Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir constantly for 2-3 minutes. The cornmeal will thicken and bubble volcanically--watch your fingers!
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the yeast and honey with 4 T (60 ml) warm (95 - 110F, 35 - 45C) water. Leave for 5-10 minutes to bubble.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together 1/2 c (65 g) plain bread flour and 1/2 c (60 g) whole wheat bread flour.
Add the yeast mixture and the cornmeal mixture. Stir together and turn out onto a surface.
Knead for 5 minutes, then place in an oiled bowl. Cover and allow to rise for 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.
Melt the butter in a small pan and add the pine nuts. Cook gently for a few minutes until the pine nuts are pale and golden. Allow to cool.

Add the pine nuts to the dough along with the remaining 1/2 c (65 g) plain bread flour and 1/4 c (30 g) whole wheat bread flour and the salt.
Turn out and knead for 5 minutes. Then return to an oiled bowl and allow to rise again for about 1 hour, until doubled.

Punch the dough once to release air, then divide into 2 pieces. Braid together and place in a greased pan. Allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 F (200 C) oven for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool.

As usual, I adjusted the recipe given to me by making it part whole wheat. Enjoy this healthy, crunchy loaf! And don't rush it.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the slower pace of this challenge. I thought the texture of the bread was fantastic which I put down to the three rises.

things we make said...

Definitely one to make on a lazy Sunday! Tasty though.

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

This describes how I usually fit in making my bread!

Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours said...

I did my usual cheat and did the last rise overnight in the fridge to allow it to be ready to be baked first thing for breakfast.

I am sure that a long slow final rise gives it more flavour.

It was a great challenge, and different from what I normally make.

sarah said...

purelyfood, I liked the texture, too. But I don't think I can stand three rises again--unless I use Helen's clever fridge trick.

things we make, yes. Why are all my Sundays so busy?

Sally, Helen, it sure was flavourful.

Becky A said...

I love the pictures of the loaf and I am so pleased you enjoyed it and enjoyed the 3 rises - I think I was as daunted as everyone else in the end with that one.

I like the idea of adding some Wholewheat flour as well for the extra flavour.

sarah said...

Becky, thanks for picking it and for the encouragement to try it! It was very tasty.

suwat82 said...

It looks not to difficult to do. I wish I could do and eat it.

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