March 5, 2013
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

On the menu at home this past weekend was beef stew (Sunday was the perfect day for it!) and bread of some type.  The stew was pretty traditional-I used sirloin tip because it’s so lean & gets really tender when braised.  I always put in a lot of onion-typically I brown one medium onion with the meat, and another onion in with the vegetables.  I like to roast the vegetables separately, then add them to the stew.  It’s a little more time consuming, but it gives the stew more depth & adds a little sweetness.  In addition to the onion, I used carrots, celery, turnip & potatoes, along with a snip of fresh rosemary from my window herb garden.

The sauce for the stew started with beef broth, made from base.  I don’t know why bases aren’t available at the retail level like they are for food service.  To me they’re far superior to bouillon cubes (YUCK!) or even the packaged broths that are now available.  They’ll do in a pinch, but you can’t control the flavor & sodium levels like you can with base.  The secret ingredient in my stew is Campbell’s cream of tomato soup.  About 1 can (undiluted) added to a gallon of broth adds great flavor & helps thicken the stew.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget to deglaze the pan you sauté the meat in with a little red wine.

But it’s really the bread I wanted to mention.  I’m embarrassed to admit that, after 30 years in the food biz, I’m afraid of yeast.  I worked with it a little at school, but I don’t think it counts when there are 13 other students making the bread with you.  I’ve shied away from it since, but decided it was time to get over myself & give it a shot.

I searched for a simple recipe online (amazing how many hits you get when you type in ‘simple bread recipe’!)  I absolutely loved the instructions written by The Simple Homemaker (http://www.thesimplehomemaker.com/simple-bread-recipe).  I giggled several times as I read through the recipe.  The part about kneading was very helpful, even though I used a different recipe (I wanted one with a little sugar & oil-hers is just yeast, water, salt & flour):

“Knead until it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom. If you have no baby’s bottom at hand to compare it to, give it the stretch test. Hold the dough up to the light and stretch a portion of it. If you can see light through it before it breaks, congrats! You’re finished”

Being a novice at bread making, it was a simple test I could use to judge whether or not I’d kneaded enough (I didn’t have a baby’s bottom handy).

The rest of the process was pretty simple-let it rise, punch it down, form it, let it rise again & then bake.  There is NOTHING more comforting then the smell of baking bread!  It came out delicious, and I was pretty impressed with myself on the texture of the bread. It was soft inside & had a great crust on the outside.  All in all a great experience for a first timer!  I think I’ll try it again…maybe cinnamon rolls for dads birthday….

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