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As loyal LPE readers well know, Anna and I have enjoyed learning how to bake a fine loaf of bread over the past few years. Usually, we knead, knead, knead away and go through several rising cycles to make a nice, dense sandwich loaf. But just a few weeks ago, a colleague of mine gave us a most special treat — a beautiful loaf of cranberry pecan bread and the recipe for how to make it.

Last weekend I finally tried the recipe. And it’s incredible. Here are the results:

Not bad, eh? Best part is that it’s the easiest loaf of bread I’ve ever made. Check out the recipe here.

Apparently, this recipe made the rounds about 3 years ago after being featured in the NYT and has been popular ever since. The two biggest differences between this and other simple bread recipes are: 1) the bread requires no kneading (but it has to rise for 12-18 hours) and 2) you bake it in a dutch oven so that you simulate baking in a steam oven. You can add all sorts of things to it (nuts, cheese, fruit, etc.), or, just keep it simple. And how cool does it look to have the flour pattern from the towels between which the dough rose on the outside?

So make yourself a loaf today. And invite us over. We’ll bring the soup.

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Like most Americans, we watched a LOT of Olympics last week. But when it gets to afternoons of trap shooting and 2.5 hours of live marathoning… even we have to say no. And the weather was great on Grove St., which made it easy to step away from Beijing.

As Anna noted in her previous mini-post, there were three real highlights of the weekend: a new living room setup, a cookout with the latest fruits (err, veggies) of our labor in the garden, and our second attempt at baking our own bread.

We decided a few weeks back that our living room needed, more than anything, a new sofa and bookshelf. It was getting a little college dorm room in there, like so:

We thought to ourselves, maybe it’s time to buy some grown-up furniture and have a place we can really enjoy.  We searched Ikea, found what we wanted, and figured we’d get down there in the next few months and pick it up.  Our hearts were set on a large modern shelf the size of our wall and a nice leather corner couch with comfy cushions and plenty of seats for friends to come watch Ohio State Football.  But, you know how it goes… too little money for a couch too far away, to put into a too-little space… alas, we’d have to find something to suit our needs for function, comfort, and style elsewhere… this is where Mark comes in with his savvy Craigslist searching.

Honestly, Craigslist was reading our minds or wire-tapping our house because last Monday, he got on line and there they were. Not only did he find a seller offering both the sofa AND the bookshelf we wanted, BUT she lived 2 BLOCKS FROM OUR FRONT DOOR. Yes! So instead of renting some kind of truck and heading down to Stoughton and hauling a sofa and shelf back home, we carried them across the street. Literally. After some crafty furniture moving, here’s what we ended up with:

and…

Much more cozy, wouldn’t you say?  Gordon especially likes all of the new nooks and crannies for hiding out in during thunderstorms.

So after a Saturday of furniture rearranging, our buddy (and loyal LPE reader) Seth came over to BBQ. We raided the garden for the following:

and combined with some salad fixings from the farmer’s market, a few sweet potatoes, some beef, and a six-pack of PBR, we were ready to roll! Seth was excited to take the helm at the grill. The strangest thing was the package of Hebrew National hot dogs we bought. Actually, here’s a trivia question: How many hot dogs come in a standard package of Hebrew National hot dogs? Answer: Seven. Seven? Seven! Makes no sense, please someone explain this to us.  Well, whatever–we consumed and enjoyed all seven, and Mark used the extra bun to spread butter on his sweet corn. Riiight.

Sunday was a day of rest, bread-making (and cookie-baking), and long walks. Yes! We decided last month to take on bread as a new project. So we bought lots of flour and a massive package of yeast and have set forth to perfect this process. This week we tried a “homestyle white bread” out of a truly remarkable bread book we found at the local library — Beard on Bread. Go find it. It is truly a gem.

Mark is good at measuring things and Anna is good at kneading, so we make a good team. Here is Anna at work (Anna: “The key is to use the palms to push and the fingers to pull.”

Mark tried not to screw it up:

While the dough was rising, we made chocolate chip cookies. They made the time pass much faster. And Anna already had her super-cool apron on:

After a few more hours, we got two nice golden brown loaves:

When we had some slices for toast this morning, we found them to be a bit dense, but still buttery and tasty. We probably didn’t let the bread rise quite enough in the pans during the second rising. So begins the quest for the perfect loaf! Everyone with a kitchen and an oven should try.

We ended the day with a lovely walk through a new part of Belmont and Cambridge. Mark had been reading a new blog on eating locally in the Cambridge area and came across a brand-new community supported agriculture farm located IN Belmont. Based on the Google Map of the address, it was than a mile from our house! So we ventured to find it. And we did:

Hopefully we can sign on next year to receive weekly or bi-weekly shares of crops and yummy earth treats. Maybe even this winter!

What a walk–what a weekend!  Full yet restful.  Another week is ahead of us, but with so many fun projects on our plate, it’s worth it to work for the weekend.

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