Friday, November 26, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For...Or...Ma Ingalls, I'm not

A few weeks ago, feeling overwhelmed by the stresses and busy-ness of today's life, I wondered why it wouldn't be OK to simplify my life by staying home more and keeping my schedule a bit barren.  After all, Ma Ingalls, of "Little House" book fame, and others like her, never had to (was able to?) leave home, and kept busy and seemingly content tending her house, yard, and family.  I began to yearn for the simplicity of basic life during that time.

Fast forward to this week...A week of snow and temps in the high teens, and add to it, no electricity from Monday evening to Thursday afternoon. I have to say in my defense that the Ingalls certainly had a fireplace for some heat and limited light, which we, shortsightedly planned to include in "Phase 2" of our home's construction...A phase we've yet to reach, if we ever do.  We did have fire, of a sort...our gas rangetop.  Not great for heat or light, but it did provide warm food and drink, which was vitally important.  

When we realized the probability of losing electricity (for a day or so, we thought), and I also realized we were completely out of bread, I made some bread dough, so we could at least do some stove top flat bread or maybe pizza.  The first night in the dark I did the flat bread.  The pan was too hot and it got a bit scorched, but no one seemed to mind.  With some pesto and some shrimp-cauliflower-broccoli-cheese soup, also made in a hurry just before the lights went out, it was a very edible meal.  But the next day, to chase away the grouchies, my remedy was to get inventive.  I had half of the dough left, and I wasn't dying for a second round of blackened flat bread.  I wanted to bake.

I got out my 2 cast iron Dutch ovens.  I knew getting the bottom of the pans too contact with dough on the pan, and pan on the fire...was something I wanted to avoid.  So I set the 2 covered pans on top of the griddle/grill pan, hoping for more of an indirect and more evenly distributed heat.  I put the oven thermometers inside and set the heat a bit above medium to let my ovens preheat while I shaped the rolls and let them rise.  Both of these things took quite awhile in our cold house.  I suppose I should admit that I had sprayed the pans with Pam before heating them up, which was a big mistake, so the house was getting slightly smoky as the grease baked off the grill side of the griddle pan and from the burning Pam. This eventually created an odor just slightly less offensive than that of cleaning the wall ovens.  (And battery-operated smoke alarms DO work without electricity.  Usually a good thing...) By the time it might be considered a problem, I was too invested in the experiment to give up.

It took a close to 2 hours to get the rolls almost doubled which coincided very well with the pans' internal temps reaching 375 degrees.  I dropped the rolls in, spacing them as well as I could, 8 to a pan and put the lids back on.  Without a clock or timer handy, I forgot to pay attention to the time when I put the rolls in.  I'm guessing it was something 30-35 minutes.

The result:  My 'indirect' heating method didn't stop them from blackening on the bottoms.  I think I overbaked them a bit trying to get them brown on top.  They tasted a little smokey at first, but airing out seemed to help, the texture was pretty good, and after trimming the bottoms, the family polished them off.  But as a baking method, I can't say I'd recommend it, and don't plan to try it again.

I am definitely not as hearty as Ma Ingalls.  I was VERY happy to regain my heat, lights, oven, TV/DVD player, computer, and to enjoy a warm shower!


  1. You are one creative and daring woman. Only a die hard baker would try that method. Hooray for our warmer temperatures and the rain instead of sno. We don't cheer for the rain very often in winter around here, do we? ;)

  2. I think it was boredom!
    Yes, rain can be better than some things.

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  4. We just made do the best we could...Definitely on the wish list: generator or fireplace! Glad you checked in here. :-D

  5. You are such a little homesteader!

  6. I think I proved mostly that I'm not! ;-) Glad you liked my fancy cooking ensemble in the other post. :-D


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