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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Breads, on November 20th, 2008.

pumpkin raisin (and walnut) yeast bread
Here’s a little quote for the day:

The smell of bread baking,
like the sound of light flowing water,
is indescribable in its evocation
of innocence and delight.
. . . . M.F.K. Fisher

You’ll find very few yeast breads here on my blog. It’s not that I don’t like them, but I’ve just tended to cook other things, and there are so many good artisan breads out there now so we can find good breads in several markets close by. But back in my ancient history I used to bake all of my own bread. I know I wrote up a post about it once upon a time. I even used to sell bread to family and friends when I was a cooped-up young mom. At the time my ex and I had just one car and only twice a week did I get to have it, so the other days I was home trying to find things to do. Making my own bread was so much better to eat because the markets had nothing but the mega-bakery institutional kinds of breads. The kinds I didn’t like then, nor do I like now.

One year during the time I was baking every week I came across this recipe for Pumpkin Raisin Bread in a raised, yeast type. My old notes don’t tell me where I got the recipe, but I have changed it over the years, so it’s really my own anyway. I added more spices, more pumpkin, reduced the sugar and sometimes added walnuts too. This bread didn’t get baked all year around – just in the Fall months. It was very popular with my friends. And, I will tell you this bread is just fabulous with turkey sandwiches. I made it every year – for years and years – the day before Thanksgiving so we’d have some for sandwiches. It freezes well – whole, or you can slice it, freeze it in foil, then in plastic bags, and it will keep for several weeks. At Thanksgiving, though, it never lasts more than a day or so. Periodically I make it now, and it’s usually this time of year.

Pumpkin bread with apple butter - sublime!

Pumpkin bread with apple butter – sublime!

Just realize this is NOT a sweet tea kind of bread. It’s a toast-kind of bread, or a sandwich-type of bread. It’s light and airy, not dense. And if you’d like to include more healthy flours, substitute about 1 cup or so of whole wheat flour for white bread flour. For some years I attempted to recreate this recipe in my bread machine, but have never been successful, except at mixing up one loaf at a time and using the machine for JUST the mixing process, not the rising and baking. This bread needs a different rising time than the machines offer. This time I mixed it up in my stand mixer, using the dough hook. Instead of combining and mixing things in separate bowls I just started with the water and yeast mixture in the mixer bowl and once it had bubbled enough so I knew the yeast was good, I just added the other ingredients to the bowl. That kept the dirty dishes down to a low level. Every house I’ve ever lived in I’ve had to find the right spot for raising dough. Yeast dough likes a quiet, warm place without drafts. This time the wide bowl sat on top of my espresso machine and within a couple of inches of the under-cabinet fluorescent lighting, which gave the bowl a nice warm place to do its thing.

 

My YEAST TECHNIQUE: I’ve mentioned it here before, but I have a technique for proofing (proving it’s viable) yeast. It’s not my own idea, but back in those olden days when I was baking all the time I read lots of bread cookbooks, and one explained all the chemistry of yeast. And this cook’s advice was to mix the yeast with warm water as usual, but to also add a tiny bit of ground ginger and sugar. Yeast is a growing thing, and it needs “food” to develop its skill, and the ginger and sugar help give it a jump start. My breads back then made a successful leap. I don’t think I ever had a yeast failure ever again.

So, this bread is fairly straight forward – you mix up a batter, add the other extraneous ingredients, mix, add the flour (not all of it unless you have to). One of the secrets to bread baking is to add only as much flour as the dough needs to keep the stickiness under control. If you remember that adage, you’ll not likely have any problems with yeast dough. I add the raisins and nuts after the first rise, but the recipe indicates it’s done during the first mixing. Your choice. And if you are doing this for turkey sandwiches, maybe you don’t want to add the nuts. They don’t serve much purpose for sandwiches. But they’re great if you’re making toasting bread.
printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC; 14 contains photo)

Pumpkin Raisin Walnut Bread, a Raised, Yeast Type

Recipe: A Carolyn T original
Servings: 36

YEAST MIXTURE:
2 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
BREAD MIXTURE:
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 medium eggs
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts — (optional)
6 – 6 1/2 cups flour — bread flour is best [part whole wheat is fine]

1. In a glass measuring cup, add water (just slightly warmer than room temperature), sugar and ginger, then sprinkle in the contents of the yeast packages. Stir with metal spoon and remove the spoon. Use your finger to push off the spoon any yeast back into the water. Set it aside while you gather your bread ingredients.
2. In a large bowl combine the evaporated milk, pumpkin, butter, sugar, salt, spices. Add about one cup of the flour and mix. The yeast mixture now should be dissolved and bubbly. If it is not, the yeast may need to sit a few more minutes. Or, the yeast could be old. Add the yeast mixture to the large bowl and stir into the pumpkin mixture. Add the eggs and stir in until combined, then begin adding the additional flour. ONLY add enough flour so the mixture will hold together.
3. Spill the dough out onto a floured board and begin kneading, using the heels of your hands. Add flour as needed so the dough becomes elastic, about 10 minutes. Toward the end of the kneading, add the raisins (and walnuts, if using) and distribute them evenly in the bread ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow to rise – about 45 minutes to an hour – in a warm place. Be sure there are no drafts.
4 Pour the dough back out onto your floured board and knead again until you’ve popped all the bubbles out of the dough. With a sharp, serrated knife, cut the dough in half and knead each half until it’s an elongated oval. Place into two bread pans and cover. Allow them to rise until they’re mounded above the pan. This dough rises fairly quickly, so you will want to be prepared to put them in the oven – don’t wait until they’re high enough to turn on the oven as they may deflate! Preheat the oven to 375°.
5. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and using mitts or large hotpads, remove the bread and allow to cool on a rack.
Per Serving: 135 Calories; 3g Fat (20.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 141mg Sodium.

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