Bake away your winter blues

This Just In...

January 31, 2000|By DAN RODRICKS

I am going to tell you how to make crusty Italian bread today because many readers asked for the recipe after I mentioned it in Friday's column and because the therapeutic benefits of pounding dough on a day like this cannot be overstated. Bake bread when there's snow on the ground. You'll feel better. Trust me.

You need 7 cups of flour and 4 packets of dry active yeast.

I know: That's trouble right away. You have neither flour nor yeast. (Or the yeast in your cupboard dates to the first Reagan administration.) So you'll have to go to the supermarket.

Another problem: All morning you've been listening to those wacky reporters on television say, "If you don't have to go out, stay home."

My advice: Don't listen to those reporters. Walk to the store if you can.

The rest of you, using flour and yeast from your Y2K reserves, follow along.

First, put on some music. I suggest a Pavarotti CD, or the soundtrack from "Big Night." If you've been taping "The Sopranos" off HBO and you can see your television from the kitchen, that would be a good choice, too. Patsy Cline works as well.

Next thing: Get a mixing bowl. We're going to make a yeast sponge together. (There's a sentence you don't hear every day.)

Put 2 cups of flour in the bowl. Dissolve all the yeast in 1 cup of lukewarm water. With a wooden spoon, mix that with the flour until you get a nice wad of spongy dough. Cover the bowl with a cotton dish towel and leave it in a warm place. Go away.

Six to eight hours later, pull the towel off the bowl with gusto. Regard the puffy sponge!

Now dissolve it thoroughly by slowly mixing in 2 cups of lukewarm water.

Slowly -- you hear me? I'm talkin' to you -- add 4 cups of flour and a pinch of salt. Use the wooden spoon. You should get a nice ball of dough. You should feel pretty good about yourself.

Cover the bowl again. Go away for 30 minutes.

Appropriate music for the next part: B.B. King's "Let The Good Times Roll," or Cherry Poppin' Daddies' "Zoot Suit Riot."

Lay a cup of flour on a big cutting board, slap down the risen dough, knead it and pound it for a little less than the length of one song, mixing in most of the remaining flour.

Cut the dough in half. You can make two long, plump loaves. You can make two round loaves. You can make a likeness of Tony Siragusa. Wrap the loaves in cotton dish towels and leave them for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and put in the biggest cookie sheet you have or -- if you're an upscale, over-gadgetized person -- terra cotta cooking stones.

Remove the loaves from the towels and bake them for one hour. Cool the bread on a rack. Keep one for yourself. Walk out in the snow and give the other to a neighbor or friend. You'll feel great about it, all warm inside. Trust me on this.

Arc receives generous gift

The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region ("Services to people with disabilities and their families in Harford and Cecil counties since 1953") raises money through a vehicle donation program. A lot of nonprofit organizations do. You give them your car (instead of selling it or trading it in) and the organizations get whatever they can for it. Recently, Sheila Harris, who works for Bell Atlantic in downtown Baltimore, gave her 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass to Arc.

Only one problem: Another car smashed into it before Arc could pick it up.

Harris' Olds was parked in front of her house in Edgewood when the accident occurred. The driver of the other vehicle took off. Harris submitted a claim to her insurance company. She received a check for $2,100.

And gave it to Arc.

That wasn't expected. Mara Walter, who works for the nonprofit group, says: "We were overwhelmed by the generosity."

No big thing to Sheila Harris. "It was the right thing to do," she says. "I had already signed title over to Arc."

She chose Arc because the organization has served her family well. "Arc has helped my son Lester. He's 17. He's mildly retarded. He attends the Arc teen group, Teens First. They have activities for him and give him support and education, to learn how to live on his own and be a self advocate."

From one mayor to another

The 47th mayor of Baltimore plowed the little street where the 45th mayor of Baltimore lives. Martin O'Malley went down Mura Street in a small truck Wednesday morning and got out to shake hands with a bath-robed Du Burns, the East Baltimore patriarch who ran this city for a year between the Schaefer and Schmoke administrations. It wasn't the first time Mura Street had been plowed after a snowstorm. (We're pretty sure it got the attention of the Department of Public Works when Du was in City Hall.) "I've been lord and master in this block for 25 years," Burns says. "But [O'Malley] excited a lot of people when he come down the street in that truck. The guy's very nice. He made a friend of me."

Change bodes well

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