Here in southern California, we're finally having a winter, the first in many years. This means cool temperatures, blustery winds, and -- wait for it -- rain! Six years with little to no precipitation is challenging, although too much at one time is not good either. Just today, there was sufficient rain to cause flooding up in Santa Barbara.
While the cooler weather and rain are welcome, they pose a challenge for finding a warm place to proof my dough. There is no warm spot in this house. The water heater is in the uninsulated garage, so that's no help. When I get desperate, I fire up the huge gas oven for a minute or so, but that's just a short-term solution.
I could turn on the heater/furnace to take the edge off, but did I mention that my 100-pound German Shepherd is afraid of it? It seems to make some kind of thumpy noise that terrifies her. Each day is a dilemma: do I turn on the heat, which forces the dog to go outside, or do I bundle up with multiple coats, scarves, and gloves so the dog can remain inside? Now, personally, I don't care if the dog is outside, but she plays this really annoying 'game' of scratching at the door, as if she wants to come back inside. But, no. As I reach for the handle, she runs away. This happens multiple times until I give in and turn off the furnace. And bundle up.
So, for the January bread, Fouace Nantaise, finding a warm spot for proofing and rising the dough required some effort. As I recall, I ended up turning on the gas stove for a brief moment so the dough could have a fighting chance. It worked, by the way.
If you, dear reader, decide to make this bread (and I hope you do, because it is delicious), you will discover that it has one unique ingredient -- orange flower water. I actually had some in my pantry from years (I say, years) ago. While I don't think it spoils, in the interest of safety and currency, I decided to replace it. What was there to lose? If I couldn't find any, I knew I had antique orange flower water at hand. But, I was in luck. The local BevMo had a small bottle in stock. I now have two bottles. I clearly need to search for other recipes that use that fragrant ingredient.
Back to the bread. Our Kitchen of the Month is Elizabeth, and she chose Fouace Nantaise, based on a recipe by Jamie Schler. It's a lovely, orange-scented bread with a touch of orange-flavored liqueur, easy to make, and quick to disappear. My only complaint would be that there wasn't enough of it. (But I do have the orange flower water, so nothing is stopping me from baking it again.) If I remember correctly (I made the bread in late December), I prepared the dough, saw that it was a really slow riser, got impatient, and tossed it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, I put the dough in the warm oven, and when it had doubled, formed the seven balls. I wondered whether it required a pan with sides to retain the shape, but continued on anyway. It baked up fine and was a really tasty bread, especially toasted and slathered with butter. Salted butter. That's all I have on hand.
I should admit that my primary deviation from the recipe, and most bread recipes for that matter, is that I mix all the dry ingredients together, including the yeast, then add the wet ingredients and mix. I find all the separate steps of melting, cooling, testing, etc. a bit on the futzy side. (Sort of like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones rolls his eyes, pulls out the revolver, and shoots. End result is the same.)
So, after this lengthy discourse, my recommendation is to make the bread. Check Elizabeth's blog for the recipe and her story, which is always entertaining. Send her your results by the 29th to be included in the Buddy roundup.
By the way, would anyone like a sweet-natured German Shepherd who's afraid of noises that go bump?