Thursday, December 4, 2008

Beer bread for small apartments

I’ve done it. I’ve finally found a name for this blog: La Cuisinette.

Now that I’ve fully moved into the new apartment, I’m realizing that what we have is not quite a kitchen, and not quite a closet either. It’s something in between, like a kitchenette. The kitchen is small, but I can live with it. I need to get a few things, like a good knife and maybe a few more shelves. But usually, as long as I’ve done the dishes, there’s room to make anything.

I’ve had my fair share of awkward kitchens anyway. I had an apartment on Dumoulin Street, in Winnipeg, where the oven worked only occasionally. One evening, in January, I started make bread, when I realized, just as I was about to slide the loaf into the oven that the oven wasn’t working. So I covered the loaf with tea towels and I dashed to my neighbour, Matthieu’s. The mad dash in Winnipeg’s -35 degrees killed the loaf instantly.

My friend Emma and I rented a room in Mexico City two winters ago, in an apartment owed by two older ladies, a 60 year old retired school teacher, Teresa, and her mother, Margarita, who was in her nineties. It was a tight fit. Margarita loved to have her late night snack (at about 7 o’clock) at the kitchen table, which butted up against the kitchen sink.

Almost every morning during those 6 months, I woke up early, when there was still room in the kitchen, and made myself some porridge. Then I’d grab a fresh orange juice at a kiosk near the bus stop. I would hold on tight to that juice as the bus bombed its way down the Tlalpan highway, all the way to university.

In our Mexican kitchen, Teresa taught me to make flan, something I have never been able to recreate back in Canada.

Last night, in my new Montreal kitchen(ette), marked my first misadventure in this apartment. We ordered sushi and watched an Eddie Murphy movie. I got up to get ice cream and came back with an unfortunate, tepid, blueberry froth. The freezer doesn’t work anymore. We’ll have to thaw it today, and see what to do.

There are quite a few more kitchens in my history of kitchens, and they’ve all had their ups and downs. And I’m sure there will be many more. But the point is, I’m a student, and even when I’m not a student, I’ll probably live in these sorts of apartments for a while. I’ve learned to cook in kitchens that are less than perfect, and I know that I’ve managed to make great food. In a way, my blog reflects that. All the recipes I post were first tried in a less than perfect cuisinette.

Today, I have a recipe that honours all students in small kitchens. It’s a quick, easy bread, and its only yeast (and liquid) is a bottle of beer. You don’t even have to knead it, for pete’s sake. So if you’re a student without even a kitchen counter, you can still make this bread.

It’s also very adaptable. There is always cheese in it, but you can use whatever cheese you like. Or whatever cheese you have in your fridge. And you can add onions or herbs, or whatever you might fancy. Or whatever you have in your fridge.

Apartment beer bread
Adapted from a recipe in the Globe and Mail, by Lucy Waverman (March 2008)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 of: chopped herbs of your choice OR/AND chopped onions or scallions
1 cup grated cheese
1 12 oz. bottle of beer
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except beer and mustard. Add last two ingredients, and mix well with spoon or your hands, making sure the mustard and all the flour has been well incorporated. Transfer to a greased bread pan, smooth top of loaf with a damp hand. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.