Friday, August 5, 2011

50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #9 Irma Rombauer - Oatmeal Molasses Bread

In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 women...one per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
the "Gourmet" prompt...
9. Irma S. Rombauer - In all its eight versions, and all its 75+ years (and counting), Joy of Cooking is arguably the essential American cookbook. Irma wrote (and published) the first version in 1931, giving birth—literally—to a culinary dynasty.

I can't remember a time when I didn't have The Joy of Cooking.  Honestly.  It's another of those books that I remember seeing on the shelf when I was little.  It's one of the first cookbooks I bought for my own bookshelf.  The Joy of Cooking began as a sheaf of papers containing 73 recipes for the Women's Alliance and a cooking course at her Unitarian church.  Always a big social gal, Rombauer loved the art and togetherness of food, as much as ...or more than... the cooking aspect.  She was a well-seasoned cake decorator and an avid gardener.  After her husband died in 1930, around the same time that her children were off starting grown-up lives of their own, Rombauer decided to compile her well-tested recipes into an instructional book.  Since its initial release in 1931, it has been expanded and updated to keep up with the changing times and continues to be edited by Irma's daughter, Marion.The Joy of Cooking was the only cookbook included in the New York Public Library's 150 most influential books of the centuring during its 1995 centennial celebration.*

worth further exploration: (books) Little Acorn: Joy of Cooking, the First Fifty Years (the story behind...) by Marion Rombauer Becker, Stand Facing the Stove by Anne Mendelson, (cookbook) The Joy of Cooking, (website) The Joy Kitchen . com, (article) Notable Americans- Irma Rombauer: The Joy of Cooking
Oatmeal Molasses Bread (or rolls)
adapted from The Joy of Cooking (1997 edition)
yield: 2 loaves (or 24 rolls)

1½ c. water
1 c. rolled oats
1 Tbs. butter
¾ tsp. fine sea salt
~ ~
1 Tbs. active dry yeast
¼ c. warm water (~110° F)
~ ~
½ c. room temperature water
⅓ c. molasses
~ ~
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. unbleached bread flour + more, as needed

Stir first four ingredients together in a small pot over medium-low heat until oatmeal is soft, smooth, and thick, ~10 minutes.  Let cool, stirring occasionally, until mixture is no longer warmer than 115° F.

Combine warm water and yeast in the bowl of a mixer and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, ~5 minutes.

Add oatmeal mixture to mixing bowl along with remaining water and molasses.  Stir on low (using dough hook attachment), until well blended.  Add flour, 1 cup at a time until dough is moist, but not sticky.  Knead on medium until dough is smooth and elastic, ~7-10 minutes (or ~15 minutes by hand).

Form dough into a ball and transfer to a large, well-oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic and let sit until doubled in size, ~1-1½ hrs.

Punch dough down, then divide into two.  Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

At this point, either free-form your dough into loaves and place on a baking sheet lined with a silpat/parchment or roll and place into oiled bread pans.  Grease some plastic wrap, cover, and let rise until doubled in size again, ~45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375° F during last 15 minutes of rise time.

Slide into oven and bake for ~40-45 minutes. Let cool a bit before slicing.

to make rolls:
After first rise, punch dough down, cover and let sit 30 minutes.  Divide into 24 equal pieces, roll into balls and place ~2" apart on a lined sheet tray. Covered with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size.  Preheat oven to 400° F during last 15 minutes of rise time, then slide in and bake until golden, ~20-25 minutes.
Irma S. Rombauer (1877-1962)
"Will it encourage you to know that I was once as ignorant, helpless and awkward a bride as was ever foisted on an impecunious young lawyer? Together we placed many a burnt offering upon the altar of matrimony."  ~Irma Rombauer (from the preface of one of the editions of the Joy of Cooking)
Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?
*source: Notable Americans

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