Today I spent eight hours in the kitchen baking and cooking. What you say? I spent the day baking and cooking. My part of Easter dinner at my daughter’s house is to bring a houska sweet bread. I remember my mom making these every Easter, so that is what I wanted to do. My recollection of the recipe did not exist, so I searched for a recipe from the All Recipes website. Houska is a yellow bread with a sweet taste, yellow raisens throughout, and scattered slivered almonds for interest. The bread is braided from three or four ropes of dough. Having eaten a truckload of these breads, but never making one it became the adventure of the day. Any bread requires yeast, and like a complete jerk I chose to use some outdated yeast for the first loaf. I know better, because I learned the hard way that yeast is like a pretty woman, finicky as hell. If the water used to dissolve it is too hot, you kill the yeast and bread becomes a dense flatbread instead of a light, fluffy, soft, airy, mellow bread. If the water is too cold, the yeast refuses to grow. The result is the same as killing it with hot water. Anyway, my old yeast worked, but not well. Did I mention that I never braided anything before? Well, I didn’t until today, proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
For the next loaf I used some fresh cake yeast, and mixed it with luke warm water. I stored the mix in the microwave to keep it warm. When I went to use it, I learned that the yeast grew so well it foamed out of the bowl all over the inside of the micro, messy to say the least.
It was way past lunch when I got the second batch of dough rising. I stopped to make egg salad for lunch. It turned out great. Good Friday is a meat-less day for us therefore, the eggs. Back to the bread after lunch, and a backyard bird watching session with Peg. We actually had a pair of Canada geese walk through the yard this morning, and during lunch a gander landed in the pond and swam through it.
Because I had such active yeast in batch two, I split the dough in half and made two loaves. The yeast did its job and the bread swelled to a good size. I got two beautiful loaves each braided from three ropes of dough. The big loaf in the photo used seven ropes, and two braidings. The first braid used four ropes and served as the base for the second which used three. I stacked the three braid on top of the four braid. Does that make sense?
About the time I had the baking dishes and utensils cleaned up, it was time to begin supper. My original idea was to make salmon patties. Again, I searched All Recipes and printed the first recipe. The first ones are the simplest and easiest to make. I went about gathering the ingredients, and much to my dismay the last two onions in the mesh bag were rotten. No salmon patties today. I remembered a dish my mother made practically every Friday during lent; buttered flat noodles with sour cream and cottage cheese folded in. Luckily I found some fettucine instead, and I also had the sour cream and cottage cheese on hand. It turned out great. Even though I am aware of not adding sour cream to a very hot mixture to keep it from curdling my stomach rushed the job, and the cream curdled a wee bit. It didn’t matter, the flavor was as I remembered it from boyhood. Currently, I am waiting for a high carb sleep to take over my body.
I told Peg that tonight I was celebrating the anniversary of Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, and that I would reciprocate by having a personal Irish wake in remembrance. In this case, with a newly opened bottle of Merlot.
Thank you Jesus for gifting me with Merlot.