At Last

As I’ve written before, the bread here in Panama isn’t very good. In fact it’s pretty horrid. I’ve made several attempts at baking my own and they’ve been pretty lame.

A few days ago I tried a “no-knead” recipe. After mixing the ingredients it sure didn’t look like the photos on line. The whole thing was pretty runny but I had followed the recipe to the letter and figured that at the end of the 24 hour period prescribed things would be different. They weren’t it was pretty much like it had been the day before and I ended up throwing the glop in the garbage.

Today I set out to try another recipe. I did make one modification. While it calls for three cups of flour I used two cups of regular flour and one cup of wheat flour. I kneaded the glop until it was smooth like the instructions call for, put it in a covered bowl and waited an hour. It rose beautifully in the bowl. I punched it down and kneaded it a second time as per instructions and put it in the loaf pan to rise for another half hour. Again, it rose beautifully and crowned over the top of the pan.

I slid the thing in the oven and soon the wonderful fragrance of baking bread filled the house. At the appointed time I took the pan out of the oven and “thumped” it getting the hollow sound the instructions said told of a finished loaf. It slid out of the pan and after waiting an interminably long time for it to cool I cut off one of the ends and voila…a real slice of delicious bread. The butter melted into the still warm slice and I topped it with some strawberry preserves…with a name like Smucker’s you know it has to be good. And it was. Next comes tuna salad.

Right now the aroma of baking bread has been replaced by simmering beef as I’m going to try making that Cuban (and Latin American) favorite Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes).  I have black beans and plantains to go with the rice. I rarely go wrong with cooking “food.” It’s just the bread that needed practice.

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One response to “At Last

  1. Congrats on the bread. Are you going to post your Ropa Vieja recipe? I have one for a slow cooker that we both like very much, but I definitely am interested in trying different versions.

    Mary, I’m quite satisfied with the bread. It actually tastes like bread. The texture is excellent.

    This was my first attempt at Ropa Vieja. I have a very good recipe for Cuban-style picadillo that I used to make in the States and which I’ve made once since moving here. The reason I decided to try the Ropa was because it’s one of the cuts of meat you see at the market and it’s a dinner I’ve eaten many times back in the States and enjoy.

    So, here’s what I came up with…

    The recipe calls for 2 lb of beef skirt but I bought a pound and a half of the Ropa Vieja cut at El Rey.

    Cook it in plain boiling water until it is tender and you can shred it with your fingers. I cooked it for about three hours.

    Make a sofrito of finely chopped onion, a sweet red pepper (the only ones I could find were small red peppers but so many in the pack that most would go to waste. Instead I substituted a medium-sized orange bell pepper) and a clove of garlic (I’m a big garlic fan and cheated by using three big cloves). Chop this stuff really fine. Fry them in 1/4 cup of vegetable oil until soft. About 8 minutes.

    Add the shredded beef, 1 tsp. oregano, 2 tbs. ketchup (I think next time I’d use tomato paste), salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.

    It turned out pretty tasty and I have a lot left over which I’ll freeze for another day. I don’t think I’d make it and invite people over for a special meal, but it’s not a bad recipe for something different for our own menu and enjoyment.