Well, how has your summer been so far? Are you crossing off summery Bucket List items left and right, or are you taking a more relaxed, lazy approach? I’m doing a bit of both this year – being blessed with the time to relax and do more than I’ve been able to do for many summers. The weather has been mild and not too hot for the most part here on the West Coast. There’s been camping, barbecues, playing at the river, and of course some jam making.
Oh, the jam making. I was blessed with two HUGE boxed overfilled with the most beautiful plums. Not sure what kind they are? I don’t think they’re Santa Rosas, anyone with more fruit identification skills out there have any idea?
They’re juicy, with creamy yellow- to red fleshy interiors. And they aren’t free stone (bummer). Not being free stone they are a bit of a (read: complete) pain in the ass to process, as you have to cut them off the pits in order to glean any kind of flesh from their little bodies. But darn they’re tasty.
I’ve processed about 15 pounds of them so far, and have about, oh, 30 left hanging around, as evidenced by that picture above. Nick said to me very seriously yesterday that no one expects me to process all of these plums, we can use what we want and dispatch the rest. The only thing holding me back from canning them all is the sheer number of jars that it would take to can this many plums. (Those of you in the immediate area, the plums that are going to land on your front porches in the next 24 hours are not from me). I’ve already blasted through a flat of pints and a flat of half pints making Cinnamon Plum Jam and a batch of Savory Plum Chili Sauce, both of which came out great.
The Cinnamon Plum Jam was a new one for me this year. I found this blog a few weeks ago, and when I read this recipe I knew I had to make a cinnamon-laced plum jam of my very own. I know many of you out there are pectin purists, which translates that you don’t use any. Hats of to your skills! I am impatient and can’t handle stirring over a hot cauldron for the amount of time it takes to process fruit without pectin, so I use it the majority of the time. I plan to get out my big girl pants and make a pectinless version with some of these plums, but for now I made the recipe on my pectin box and dropped two 3″ cinnamon sticks into my hot lava jam boil, fishing them out before I canned it up. The result was a lightly scented and flavored jam of the most luxurious taste and texture. Just look at this:
The ultimate jam test, though, is how it tastes on toast. I am deeply in love with toast; heavily slathered with salted butter, seared under the broiler and not in the toaster, rendering the outside crisp and leaving the inside soft. And folks, I’m proud to announce that I found THE BEST bread recipe, which gave me the most amazing toast I may have ever had. No kidding.
Ordinarily and up to now, sourdough toast is my favorite. Being blessed with true San Francisco sourdough in my Outer Bay Area existence has spoiled me and mine with some of the best bread on the planet (should I ever have to give up gluten, well, perish the thought). This new bread is gently sweet, with a nice light crumb. Nick and I agreed that it smelled like graham crackers when it was cooling on the rack. Waiting for it to cool was the longest hour of my life.
The best part about this new loaf is that it’s a no-knead loaf, with only one rise. These two caveats make this a great loaf even for a beginning baker, especially one with yeast terrors. You literally mix it up, plop it in a greased loaf pan, let it rise, and bake it off. And for singletons and/or couples who don’t eat a lot of bread, it only makes one normal sized loaf. Between the ease of the recipe and the yield this might be the perfect sandwich loaf. The recipe has a lot going for it.
Those of you that do bake bread are going to see that it’s 100% whole wheat and doesn’t call for vital wheat gluten to help with the rise, which struck me as odd (and made me excited, since I’m too cheap to buy a bag and thus have none). The bread rose like a champ on my counter, gaining lofty altitudes high above the edge of the loaf pan. It rose a bit more in the oven, with a gently browned crust, and popped right out of the loaf pan after a brief respite on the counter. In short, even in the long version of the story, this bread is perfect. And the toast this morning? Heavenly.
No-Knead 100% whole Wheat Bread
from King Arthur Flour website
Makes one nice loaf
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil (mmm…butter)
3 tablespoons molasses, maple syrup, dark corn syrup, or brown sugar corn syrup (I used dark molasses)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk (I used nonfat and it worked just fine)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups King Arthur whole wheat flour, white whole wheat preferred
Heavily grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. This loaf tends to stick, so be sure to grease the pan thoroughly with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
Combine bine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Beat the mixture vigorously for about 3 minutes; an electric mixer set on high speed works well here. You should have a very sticky dough. It won’t be pourable, but neither will it be kneadable. Scoop it into the prepared pan. (Take some care to level it out and push it into the corners of the pan. It may fight a bit, but you risk an uneven loaf if it isn’t leveled out.)
Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes; it should just about rise to the rim of the pan, perhaps just barely cresting over the rim. (I let mine go a full hour and it rose about 1/2-3/4″ above the pan.)
Preheat oven to 350*F. Uncover the bread, and bake it for about 40 to 45 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 20 minutes. The bread is done when it’s golden brown on top, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers between 190°F and 195°F. Remove it from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack. Brush with melted butter, if desired; this will keep the crust soft (I didn’t bother, and the crust was still soft the next day). Cool the bread completely before cutting it.