This is what I made today: a loaf of white bread (I prefer whole wheat and grain breads, but I made this for my husband, who says all the grains, well, they get things moving a little too much internally) and roast chicken. I wanted to make this week's roast chicken recipe from Everybody Likes Sandwiches, but I do not own a covered baking dish big enough for a whole chicken...and I did not have any cinnamon sticks in the house. So I adapted two different recipes from America's Test Kitchen by stuffing the bird with chopped lemon pieces and whole, crushed garlic cloves and setting it atop a bed of chopped onions, carrots, and potatoes (the potatoes were my addition). Also, I added a little butter and dried tarragon (I didn't have fresh anything in the way of herbs, so I had to settle for dried) under the skin of the breast. I put the vegetables in the bottom of a 9 x 13 rectangle Pyrex dish, set a cooling rack on top of the veggies (the rack I use to cool cookies), and the chicken sat on top of the rack. The chicken cooked for 40 minutes at 375F to get the cooking going and 30 minutes at 450F to finish it up and crisp the skin. I decided to make the gravy recipe, too. I used to detest gravy of any kind, but I've warmed to it in the past year or so. I simmered the pan drippings with some chicken broth until it was reduced, added a little butter, flour (it was not called for, but I tossed in a teaspoon to thicken it a bit), and then some lemon juice. The recipe said to add salt and pepper, but the broth gave it enough salt and I just left out the pepper, not thinking about it. The results: the chicken was moist, tender, and flavorful. I did not think that the lemon and garlic imparted that much flavor, but the chicken was very juicy. The vegetables that had been cooking under the chicken were a bit of a mixed bag. Some were cooked perfectly tender and others were more crunchy and undercooked. Pieces chopped so small should have had no problem cooking fully in 70 minutes, so I wonder if it's my oven cooking unevenly? The gravy was on the thin side, but made an excellent sauce. I almost forgot to mention that tonight was my first time really attempting to carve the chicken in a proper way. Usually, I slice a couple of pieces off and then just tear at the thing, but I wanted to try and do it right, and despite the drumsticks falling apart a bit, it wasn't too bad.
The bread I made is "The Essential White Loaf" from Nigella Lawson. I mixed it up last night and, for the first time, used fresh--instead of active dry--yeast. The ingredients were super simple: flour, yeast, water, butter, and salt. Nigella recommended using potato water, but I did not have the time or patience to boil potatoes at 9:00 at night. After I prepared and kneaded the dough, I put it in an oiled bowl and let it sit in the fridge overnight. This morning, I let it come to room temperature, kneaded it a little more, and then formed it into a football shape on a baking sheet. It baked for about 40 minutes and, while it looks a little funny, it tastes great. It's worth mentioning that from the moment I started kneading I thought I should have added more water before I got to the kneading stage. I found myself kneading a dough that required no additional flour to alleviate stickiness, which is uncharacteristic in my (albeit) limited bread making experience. The dough felt slightly dry and a little stiff. I was worried that it would be reflected in the quality of the finished bread, but the texture was surprisingly moist. So either I screwed it up and rebounded nicely or that is the way it's supposed to feel at the kneading stage.
When we were in Norway we were introduced to two products that have since gained great popularity in our house: Nugatti and Sjokade. The first is sort of like Nutella but it's thicker and not quite as sweet. Sjokade is another chocolate spread, but there is no nut flavor. It sort of tastes like a thicker version of Hershey's chocolate syrup, but way better. So today I served my son an afternoon snack of Nugatti on my homemade bread. He was smitten.