Necessity’s kids


Jean-François Millet, 1854

The kids and I are back for a second helping of Spain, and are getting settled in. We arrived last week after a quick stop in Istanbul.* Our apartment this year is in a neighborhood called el Grao (el Grau in Valencian). Grao is the Galician word for degree, but I don’t know if it means anything to Valencians other than “neighborhood down by the port.”

Last year’s apartment was sort of posh–this year’s is much less so, quite a bit smaller, up four and a half flights of stairs, no elevator. All the climbing should get us toned up nicely, though carrying a bike up the stairs makes you think twice about going out for a joy-ride.

There are many things I like about this year’s home-away-from-home, but one thing that’s cramping my style is that we have no oven. For me, a constant baker of bread and frequent baker of all manner of other things, this is tough. I could more easily do without a shower than an oven.†

Given that I don’t have a choice in the matter, I’m looking for options. One such is to make English muffins, which can be baked in a frying pan on the stove top. Several years ago I found a good recipe, but then somehow lost track of it. I hunted it up again before leaving New England and did a test batch, thinking it would help us in our ovenless state. It worked really well in Massachusetts.

A few nights ago I pulled the recipe out to try it here. The first stage is stirring together a batter and letting it rise for 90 minutes, after which you add some oil, more flour, and some kneading. That’s the point at which it was clear that things were not going nearly as well on this side of the pond. Rather than dough, I had glop.

It wasn’t the fault of Ninja’s ounces-to-milliliters conversion program (a ten-year-old coding fanatic, he had written a little program to convert one to the other earlier in the day). I investigated, and his figures checked out. I recalled from last year that the flour I get here seems to give quite different results, and that’s probably the cause of much of the difference.

In any event, I added flour, and added flour, and added more flour, finally piling the dough back into the bowl for the next rise. At the point in the recipe where the dough would be rolled out and cut into rounds, it was clearly time for necessity to do her “mother of invention” thing.

I did form some make-shift balls that would eventually become muffinish, but with half the dough/batter, we decided that there was nothing for it but to resort to doughnuts. This was a sacrifice we were willing to make.

We make doughnuts rarely, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that keeping the oil at the ideal temperature is something of a challenge. As luck would have it, the highest setting of one of the stove burners did the trick effortlessly. El Guapo cooked, and we shook the finished donuts in a little sack of plain sugar. They were perfect.

If you want to try your hand at making English muffins, let me know in the comments, and I’ll tidy the recipe up and post it. Before this most recent project, I would have said that following the recipe would be fairly straightforward, but now I’m not so sure. Still, the results were worth the effort, with or without doughnuts.

We had better luck with the second batch.

We had better luck with the second batch.


*Turkish Air had a deal, and we were up for a bit of adventure. Ninja is ready to sign on to do promotional spots for the airline, waxing eloquent about all the great swag they gave us on the flight, including slippers, socks with little grippy lines on the bottoms (only the finest, he is sure), tiny tubes of toothpaste (according to him, “strong but flavorless”), high quality lip balm (“Mom, this probably cost a lot, right?”), little cups of Turkish Delight. Amazingly, the meal on our second flight was extra delicious, so much so that if I hadn’t been sitting down, I would have had to find a place to sit down.

†In fact, given the way the shower alternates between scalding and cool without really passing through comfortably hot, doing without a shower is likely to be the plan. I manage in the little bath, using a basin to pour water over my head. I mentally add the situation to my experiences from last year under the heading shower adventures.

7 thoughts on “Necessity’s kids

  1. Globe trotting again, eh? You and the kids are certainly getting a wonderful education in living like the locals. Fascinating reading your post!

    • We’re fortunate that our kids are game for this sort of thing. Yesterday we went for a long walk to our old neighborhood, and bought the same pastries that were the first we ate in Spain last year. Good memories!

  2. I’m sure as time goes by there you will perfect a type of bread; perhaps Indian fry bread?
    The shower situation might be caused by others in the building using the water? Maybe get up at the crack of dawn, shower and go back to bed?
    Good luck !

    • Thanks for the suggestion–fry bread could be fun. And I had been thinking about Indian Chapatis before I came, but had forgotten them. That’s what I’ll try next! As for the shower issue, who knows. We have our own little on-demand water heater, but I wonder if the hot/cold thing might be influenced but other people’s cold water use. Always an adventure–

  3. Pingback: Gone to the dark side | Lori Notes

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