by Kate Heyhoe
Hot fresh loaves of bread at dinner, toasted bagels for breakfast and cheese-filled arepas for lunch. All with a few twists of the wrist and a simple flip of a switch. What else could a busy cook want?
Oster and Sunbeam, companies known for blenders and other small appliances, recently sent me several breadwinning products to try, and I've been awaiting the completion of my latest kitchen remodel to experiment with them. My last remodel was only in 2000, and it's not like I'm a glutton for punishment, but it was in a different house in a different state (California). This time the kitchen is smaller, and after knocking out a wall, we have additional open space ready for a whole wall of small appliances and other time-saving kitchen helpers. (When I'm done, I expect the place to look like a display at Crazy Eddie's. It's Insane!)
Toast of the Town
It's a paradox of modern life that one is more likely to find really good fresh bread in urban markets, rather than in rural enclaves or small towns. Such preservative-free "artisanal bread," as it's now called, tends to be pricey, albeit worth every cent, and of course lasts only a short time. In the Texas Hill Country where I live, you can occasionally find rustic bread in farmers' markets. But the local grocery store caters to most of its customers with sliced white bread so soft your fingers leave impressions in it, bearing all the flavor of soggy paper towels. In fact, I think the best use for such bread is to replace paper towels.
When the Sunbeam bread maker arrived, I eagerly put it to use, hoping that it would give me the bread I wanted without the time and labor of crafting bread completely from scratch. Unlike my previous bread machine, circa 1990, this model makes 1.5 and 2 pound loaves, and has settings for light, medium, or dark crust. It also has a speed cook setting for bread in an hour (yet to be tried), and a delay setting for timing a fresh baked loaf when you want it. I sampled a tried-and-true recipe from my friend Lora Brody, the Queen of Bread Machine Baking. The ingredients took only a few minutes for me to measure into the bread pan, and then the machine took over: mixing, kneading and baking until done. Three hours later, the final product was a complex-tasting loaf, with medium-dense crumb and a honey-colored crust. I was satisfied that this machine would now save me an hour's drive each way to the big city for good quality bread. I haven't done a complete survey of all bread machines, but I can say that this one is not as pricey as some competitors, and it seems to do the job just fine.
Toasters may be the butt of wedding gift jokes, but if you've ever suffered with an inadequate toaster, then you know that a toaster's performance can start the day just right, or just wrong. My old toaster was failing on one side, leaving half the slices blond and the other brunettes. This one from Oster works great, with wide slots and special settings for "frozen" and "bagels." Plus, the sleek brushed stainless design makes it a snazzy accessory to my newly remodeled kitchen.
Arriba las Arepas
Finally, I was stunned (in a good way) to see that Oster makes, of all things, an arepa cooker. Arepas are delicious little corn cakes, specialties of Venezuela and Colombia in particular. You may not find them on your local street corner, but they're as much a staple in Miami and certain Latin American neighborhoods as bread is elsewhere. These thick disks are chewy or fluffy on the inside, with a crisp exterior. Slice them through the middle and stuff them with cheese, beans, or shredded pork, or even vegetables and salads. Arepas are traditionally made on a griddle and/or baked in the oven, but with the electric arepa-maker, the cook simply fills the six depressions with batter, closes the lid and in about ten minutes, the arepas are ready. Hot, crusty, and irresistible.
Even if you don't have such modern conveniences as an arepa or bread maker, the bread-themed recipes below are worthy of a spring fling. Combine a good bread with a tasty cheese and the best greens of the season, served alfresco, and you're ready to celebrate the good life in all its perfect simplicity.
Bread Salads and Sandwiches Recipes
Bread Salad with Watermelon, Feta and Red Onion
Chicken-Cashew Nut Salad on Sourdough Bread
Grilled Bread, Arugula and Tomato Salad
Irish Ale Party: Crunchy Blue Cheese Croutons
Italian Mixed Mushroom Salad with Croutons
Shrimp Salad Sandwich
Tomato and Bread Salad with Lemon-Parsley Dressing
Copyright © 2005, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created February 2005
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