Fred’s Bread

12 Mar

I can hear Fred gently calling to me from the dining room. I don’t know what he wants. I’ll probably never know. You see, Fred is a cat.

Handsome Devil

We discovered him lazing about in the sun when putting in the air conditioner yesterday, and he only disappeared when the sun went down. All day long he moved from dining room window to kitchen window and then back depending on where we were, gently miaowing in a friendly, conversational way while I baked bread. His handsome, fuzzy face was so distracting in fact, that he caused me to make some blunders in my loaf. Hence, Fred’s bread.

And how did this presumably stray cat get a name? I said something to the boy about fuzzy face, which made me think of Funny Face, which led me to think of Audrey Hepburn and of course Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s which led me to Fred . Et voila! A name is born. (I suppose Cat would have been a more logical name to chose from the movie, but inspiration doesn’t always strike perfectly).

Fred

A few weeks ago I was googling something random when I stumbled over this recipe. I was so excited. Crusty Croatian Bread? Yes! The bread in Croatia was amazing. There was something different about it. I kept conjecturing that it was possibly corn meal, but I could never find a recipe for any kind of Croatian bread that wasn’t a sweet, holiday-themed loaf until this one. I was a little disappointed to see nothing unusual in it however aside from the butter.

Last weekend I tried it out. I even found cake yeast and bought a scale to assure that I followed the recipe exactly. I whipped up a pot of fish soup (Shorbet el Samak to be exact) from my new favorite cookbook to have with the bread. I did everything perfectly. And how did the loaf turn out?

Meh.

Bad Bread

It was bland and featureless. The crust was a ditzy shade of blond. The crumb was alright but had no flavor. The boy, as always, said it was wonderful. Isn’t he great? It was actually pretty good when soaked in olive oil, and after it had gone stale it reminded me of the bread sticks from the Olive Garden (I’ll leave you to decide if that’s a compliment or not).

And so I spent the week tinkering with the recipe in my head. I would add more salt, a little sugar, some white whole wheat flour and some cornmeal, just to see what happens. I would follow the recipe in technique, but add some twists of my own with a dash of advice from Nigel.

That was the plan, and then Fred showed up.

I was so busy “talking” to him I completely forgot to cut the butter into the flour. Oops. Apparently that was not a crucial step (I added it in little chunks to the already mixed dough) and the loaf turned out AMAZING.

Perfect Bread

The crust is deeply golden, very slightly charred and yet a breeze to cut through. The crumb is perfect, moist and full of flavor. I can’t believe I nailed my own bread recipe on the first try. It must have been Fred.

Perfect Bread

And now speaking of Fred… I know nothing about cats as I’m incredibly allergic and have never had one. So, I’m asking you guys. Is he a stray? Just a wandering Tom? What should I do? Should I let him in, put him in a carrier and take him to a vet and try and find him a home? Should I feed him?

Fred

He’s obviously full of love. He kept rubbing up against the screen as if he wished it was someone’s hands petting him, but he would also claw at the window screen in a way that made me fear for our new sofa. The only time I’ve ever spent with cats was when I worked for the HSUS in high school, and those were all strays or abused and bit me and scratched me and sent me to the hospital numerous times (not good role models).

Is Fred pulling a Snowball II on me?

Head below the jump for the recipe for Fred’s Bread.

Fred’s Bread

prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: 40 minutes + 30 minutes preheating + cooling time

  • 2 1/2 cups AP Flour + more for kneading
  • 1 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup Corn Meal + more for dusting
  • 2 ozs. Cake Yeast
  • 4 tsps. Salt
  • 1 5g packet Sugar In The Raw
  • 2 1/2 cups body temperature Water
  • 1/4 cold Butter

Combine the flours in a bowl. Combine the yeast, water, salt and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add to the flour and mix to combine. Cut the butter into little pieces and stir into the dough. Add a bit more AP flour as necessary to make a wet, sticky dough.

Heavily flour the work surface and begin gently kneading the dough. Add more flour as necessary to keep it from sticking and to get it to a nice, solid, springy texture. The kneading should take about 10 minutes. Form the dough into a sphere.

Place a small glug of olive oil in the bottom of a very large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and then turn the oiled side up. Cover with a thick kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.

Lightly flour the work surface. Turn the dough out and knead for an additional 3 or 4 minutes. Cut the dough in half and form into 2 long thin loaves. Dust a double layer baking sheet with cornmeal. Place the two loaves on the pan so that they are touching. Dust with a generous layer of cornmeal, cover with the towel and return to the warm place to rise for one hour.

30 minutes before the rise is done, preheat the oven to 450-500°F (hot, a hair off as high as the oven will go). When the hour is up, gently tuck the dough back into a pretty shape and gently place into the oven to bake for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes turn the heat down to 350°F and allow to bake a further 25 minutes until deeply golden and hollow sounding when knocked on the bottom (depending on the loaf’s shape, this may take longer).

Set on a rack to cool, slice and eat with good butter or a beautiful goat cheese.

Enjoy!

11 Responses to “Fred’s Bread”

  1. Lydia March 12, 2007 at 8:44 am #

    Fred’s Bread looks amazing! One of my cooking group buddies gave me some locally-ground corn meal, and I think it would be perfect in this recipe.

  2. jenblossom March 12, 2007 at 10:41 am #

    Fred is certainly a handsome fella. I think the only thing that is preventing me from becoming a crazy cat lady is my husband… though he is, himself, guilty of being a big mush when it comes to little furry creatures. We have two cats of our own, and a steady stream of neighborhood cats who like to hang out in our backyard and garden. We have two regulars who have been around since we moved into our place, and we are pretty certain that they don’t really have homes. They are sweet and very friendly, and our rule is as long as the cats behave themselves, don’t fight or get destructive, they are welcome to hang out whenever they like, and they also get bowls of water and Purina Cat Chow (which drives our boy cat crazy – he’s on a special diet and the smell of the Cat Chow is like ambrosia or something). They keep the vermin away, which is a nice bonus.

    I would just sort of take a wait and see approach with Fred – see how often he comes by and monitor what sort of shape he’s in. Maybe even ask around in your neighborhood to see if he has a home. Once you start feeding him, he will probably come back regularly, so you have to be prepared for that. :)

    The bread looks amazing, and feel free to email me with any other kitty questions you may have.

  3. sher March 12, 2007 at 12:58 pm #

    I agree with Jenblossom. I have had many cat visitors that act like Fred. He could be homeless and depending on the kindness of strangers, but he may also just be a cat that likes to visit and found someone he likes. I would put out some food and water too. It’s not the worst thing to have a cat around, to take care of vermin, if he is the kind of cat that does it. And it’s a myth that cats need to be hungry to kill rats. Not true at all. If he scratches at the screen, make a hissing noise with your mouth. He may respond to that. Several of my feline visitors got the message to stop that once they heard that several times. I think with time Fred will give more clues as to his situation. He’s a good cat, from the look of him. He has that Tabby personality. They are my favorite type of cat. And look how he helps you with cooking? The bread looks marvelous!

  4. ann March 12, 2007 at 4:46 pm #

    Thanks Sher & Jenblossom! I knew you guys were the right people to ask!
    He’s so handsome, and we do have a mouse, maybe I will encourage him to stick around a bit, but he can’t come inside… I’m just too allergic :-(

    Lydia — If you have some lovely local corn meal you might even want to up the quantity used in the dough. I bet that would taste delicious!

  5. liz March 12, 2007 at 6:44 pm #

    when winter comes i would call a no-kill shelter (i think there is one in park slope) and get their advice, if for no other reason than it would break my heart to see him out there if i couldn’t bring him in. also, it would be responsible to spay/neuter him. (you don’t want him marking your fire escape if you have any desire to open that window)

    i would be surprised if anyone had an outdoor cat in new york anymore…more likely (and sad) is that he used to live in your apartment and doesn’t realize his owners moved away.

    the bread sounds great, though! :)

  6. moveablefeast March 12, 2007 at 7:31 pm #

    Wow! I’ve been leaning towards making bread and your recipe looks like the best I’ve seen. I’ll give it a try this weekend.

    That cat is pretty cute, too. My wife and I had the same stray cat issue. After a week or so of watching him we allowed him in our apartment. It turns out he’s the nomadic pet of a neighbour. We named him Caramel and he comes over every day to sleep in my wife’s purse and bask in the sunlight.

    Phil @ http://moveablefeast.wordpress.com

  7. Anne March 13, 2007 at 4:41 pm #

    Gee, Ann…all this yummy bread you make is slowly convincing me to overcome my fear of yeast!

    I called my husband Fred over to look at pictures of Fred the cat. We love kitties! I think the advice you’ve received is good. Fred looks pretty healthy…he’s not too thin and his coat looks good, so he could be a rare NYC outdoor cat. But a little extra food set out won’t hurt.

  8. ann March 13, 2007 at 6:54 pm #

    Liz — You’re a genius! I should call BARC! They’re amazing.

    Phil — That’s too funny… the cat sleeping in your wife’s purse. I can totally picture it. If you try the bread I hope you like it, you seem to be the bread-master!

    Anne — I’m glad Fred likes his namesake ;-) You should totally try bread. Start with the Bittman no-knead recipe, that’s what got me hooked! It’s so easy you’ll lose all your fear.

  9. s'kat March 14, 2007 at 7:01 am #

    I’m chiming in with the chorus… Fred looks pretty healthy and happy, although the fact that he’s not wearing a collar is somewhat troubling. Keep an eye and see what happens over the next week or so.

    Either he just likes to visit new neighbors, or he was recently dumped. Ask around and put up signs, if nobody claims him, see if you can’t find him a good home. I’d take him, but I think my other cats would have a bonafide fit.

    Oh, and the second batch of bread looks AMAZING!

  10. ann March 14, 2007 at 1:32 pm #

    s’kat — I’d never want to upset Sirius, he’s too cute a kitty!

    So, I ran into a neighbor last night and asked about Fred and he said he thought he might be the cat of the family that lives next door. Apparently people in Bay Ridge let their cats come and go pretty much as they please. He also said that he’s pretty sure Fred’s a girl. Oops :-)
    I still might give him/her a treat every now and again. I just hope s/he’s fixed!

  11. Linda, The Village Vegetable March 15, 2007 at 8:48 am #

    fred is a cutie pie and i love this story, and your bread! i say maybe leave him a snack though then he’s sure to come back… though it seems he’s hanging out there now anyways. maybe ask the prospective family? you’re in brooklyn?! how lovely. i adore brooklyn. if i didn’t hate the subway system so much, i’d probably live there.

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