Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
“Now, just to refresh everyone’s memory…how many are in a dozen?” the teacher asked.

“Twelve,” the class answered back.

“Unless it’s a baker’s dozen,” piped up one pipsqueak. “Then it’s 13.”

An informative discussion ensued and ended with one child asking, “But, why do they call it a baker’s dozen?”

The teacher answered an honest, “I’m not sure,” and then looked to me.

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know, either.”

“We’ll have to find out,” the teacher said, calling the class back to attention before moving on to the next part of the lesson.

But one little fellow leaned over and whispered, “That’s going to bug you until you know the answer, isn’t it Mrs. Jost?”

Yep.

The phrase “baker’s dozen” arose because a law was passed in England in 1266 specifying exactly how much a loaf of bread should weigh. Because there was such a hefty penalty for selling underweight loaves, bakers started throwing in an extra loaf so they would be assured of meeting the minimum legal weight.

By the 16th century, the term “baker’s dozen” had become commonplace.

Now you know and so do I. That’s one of the reasons I love working at the elementary school. Almost every day one of the kids asks a very good “why” question. And it’s those “why” questions that make the adults that work there delve into dictionaries, turn on the Internet or look deep into their souls to find the answers to appease those probing little minds.

The kids can pose some good questions and some funny ones, too. Just last week, a first-grader stopped me in the hall and asked, “Mrs. Jost, why are we having bricks for lunch?”

“Bricks?”

“Uh-huh. The announcers on the intercom this morning said we were having bricks for lunch and I don’t understand. I don’t want a brick.”

I explained that I had missed the announcements. But that since it was Kansas Day perhaps the cooks had given the food special names in celebration like “pioneer adobe house bricks.”

Well, I was doing my best.

When I returned to my desk, I looked up the menu for the day’s lunch. Bierrocks. Fortunately, I ran into the student again before lunch and clued him in.

“Whew, I love bierrocks. But I didn’t want to eat a brick.”

Who would?

Because I have such a long lunch break, I opt to go home to eat and do a few chores. But maybe I should have stayed for the “bricks” that day. Keith and I enjoy the meaty bundles from time to time, but neither of our kids is wild about them, so it doesn’t pay for me to make a batch.

And to be honest, I just haven’t wanted to do a lot of heavy-duty cooking lately. Fortunately, Main Street Cafe in Durham offers carryout. Last Friday, night as Keith stepped through the back door, I was laying in wait.

“Wouldn’t vereneka be good for supper? Vereneka topped with gravy and homemade syrup alongside some savory country sausage? A crisp green salad with cherry moos on the side and homemade pie to top things off?”

I could see him start to salivate. After a quick shower, he and Alex were off to Durham to bring home a banquet of the popular Friday night German buffet.

Maybe that could work again this week, too. I think I’ll try it on Thursday night, though. That’s when Main Street Cafe has its two-meat-with-all-the-sides-plus-dessert-buffet up and running.

But then again, I’ve already made reservations for Main Street’s Prime Rib Sweetheart’s Supper for the evening of the 13th and I don’t want him to suffer from Durham overkill.

Perhaps I’ll try, “Doesn’t sweet- and-sour pork sound good? Crispy crab rangoon and spicy General Tso’s chicken? China Buffet has carryout.”

Which reminds me of one of my friends who has a growing teenaged son. She and her husband only take him to “all you can eat” buffets anymore. It’s the only way they can seem to satisfy the boy’s raging appetite when dining out.

I guess our time for that will come. With two kids entering their teen years, I’m sure we too will encounter the “hollow leg” syndrome soon enough.

I’m just glad Durham is so close.

* * *

This recipe is so big, I would suggest you use a mixer such as a Bosch or one of the larger Kitchenaides. It can be done by hand, but you’ll get a workout.

Fabulous Homemade Bread

1/2 cup warm water

3 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast

1/4 cup bread flour

1 tbs. white sugar

2 cups quick cooking oats

2 cups whole wheat flour

41/2 cups warm water

11/2 tsp.salt

2/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

10 cups bread flour

In the mixing bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, stir together 1/2-cup warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4-cup bread flour and yeast. Let stand for about five minutes to make a bread sponge.

Measure oats, 41/2 cups warm water, whole-wheat flour, salt, brown sugar, and oil into the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed with a dough hook for one to two minutes. Increase speed slightly and begin adding bread flour 1/2 to 1 cup at a time until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Humidity determines how much flour you need before the bread pulls away from the edge of the bowl. It is normal for the dough to be sticky.

Place dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the surface. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm spot for one hour or until doubled in size.

Divide dough into six pieces. Shape loaves and place in greased 8×4 loaf pans. Let rise until dough is 1 inch above the rim of the pans, usually one hour.

Bake in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until tops are browned. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes and then turn out on wire racks to cool completely.

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