Stretch - FamilyEducation

Stretch

January 31,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

It was a fabulous, beautiful spring-like weekend here in North Carolina--with temps reaching 60 degrees on Saturday! And on Sunday we almost topped out at 70...If you're still digging out from the latest snow storm, don't read this, because it might make you feel grouchy. Even if I sometimes lament the absence of a real winter around here, I'm always grateful for those gift-like days we get in the middle of winter, when the world around us yawns, stretches its arms a bit, and gives us this glimpse of spring to come.

I was itching to be outside all day Saturday, but it was hard to get my kids motivated--they've become so entrenched in winter-day routines: reading, crafts, computer time, playing upstairs in their rooms with dolls (T.) and Star Wars figures (L.). And L.'s been going through a rough patch lately and life's been so difficult for all of us;  I was even more determined to get him outside, in a desperate hope that some of the warm spring-like air could seep into his bones and chase away some of his anger, turn things around inside of him, as cleanly as a key fitted into a lock. As it turned out, I needed some of that warm air inside my bones. I didn't realize how stressed and frustrated I'd been all week long until I sat for a bit in the sun, and focused on how tangled up I was inside. Sometimes you need to see the knots, in order to untangle them. By Sunday afternoon, after lots of time doing this, and a relaxing playdate with Mama-time to catch up with an old friend, and a brisk long walk with my neighbor-friend, and good dinner on Sunday with actual dinner conversation with L., and jokes, and normalcy all around us, I felt myself sigh and stretch a bit inside, happy at the moment, for the weekend, for everything we have.

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A few months ago I posted a recipe for Amdo bread, a special type of Tibetan bread usually cooked in clay pots nestled into hot ashes. I went back to the post and saw that the photographs were gone--some glitch with Flickr. But this weekend I made a new batch of Amdo bread, and it was so amazingly easy and delicious that I had to repost the recipe, with an updated photo. I made this bread a couple of weeks ago and chopped up Kalamata olives, rolled them into the dough and turned out a round loaf of chewy, salty, divine olive bread--perfect to accompany the lentil soup I had made that night. But even as I was slicing into the olive version of the Amdo bread, I had a vision of another version involving the drizzling of honey and sesame seeds over the dough before flipping it in the pan. This weekend I tried that, and the bread turned out golden-glazed on the top, with lightly toasted sesame seeds.

I mixed up the dough while T. was outside on the porch, trying out her new pottery wheel

"We're both making things with our hands!" T. exclaimed from the porch when I told her I was making bread. And we were--she sculpting a mound of wet clay, turning it into a sweet little vase, while I was folding yeast and water into the flour, making bread--simple and satisfying.

 

Amdo Bread (adapted from The Lhasa Moon TIbetan Cookbook)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
12 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
coarse sea salt

Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and place the yeast and baking powder in it. Add the water gradually and mix well. Knead the dough and let it sit in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a circle about 2 inches thick. The dough circle should fit the bottom of the pot you'll be using.

Heat a thick-bottomed pot with high sides (I used a large saucepan). Brush the bottom and sides with oil. Place the dough circle in the pot and cover it. Turn the heat to low and cook for 20-30 minutes. When the top of the dough begins to get dry, check the bottom. I think my saucepan wasn't as thick-bottomed as it should have been, so my dough was ready to flip closer to the 20 minute mark. Lift up the bottom of the dough and take a peek. If it's lightly browned, it's time to flip and cook the other side for another 15-20 minutes.

Before the flip, drizzle generous amounts of honey or agave syrup over the top of the dough circle. Top with sesame seeds. 

When the bread is done, turn onto a cutting board. Brush the top lightly with more oil and sprinkle coarse salt over the top. Slice into wedges and enjoy!  It's doughy on the inside, and the outer crust turns out golden and lightly crunchy--the perfect bread, in every way.