The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

The Week of Eating in: What’s wrong with my bread making? February 24, 2010

Filed under: experiment,Food,Moments of hilarity,recipes — Alden @ 3:34 am
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So, I wanted to use up those four pounds of flour lurking in my cabinet as part of the Week of Eating In. Ambitious me decided that the best way to use it all up (without getting fat on cake) was to make bread. I mean, how hard could bread be? Its ingredients are fairly simple, after all: flour, salt, sugar, egg, yeast, water, oil.

Well…

I found a recipe (below) and I followed all instructions to a tee (which is a feat for me. Usually I dump everything in a bowl and then find out later that you need to “gradually mix in…”) and when the two loaves came out of the oven, oh, were they gorgeous. I triumphantly cut myself a warm piece. The texture was perfect. The shell cracked open and I was filled with memories of buying a fresh loaf of bread right from a Parisian bakery and laying on a picnic blanket by the Seine with friends to enjoy it. The way the soft inside pulled apart, it could have been in a Pillsbury commercial.

But here’s the thing – I couldn’t actually taste anything. My nose was still stuffed up, so as much as I savored it in my mouth, all I could say for sure was that the texture was really pleasing.

The next morning I cut a piece for Vicki and had her try it. She took a bite, chewing slowly. “Well?” I asked.

“It’s…. a little bit yeasty?” She ventured. A grin spread across her face, which – with Vicki – isn’t always a good sign. Often it means she has something not so great to say and is trying to couch it in humor. She tried to nonchalantly tear off a sheet of paper towel and wander away, but I saw as she turned away from me bent her head.

“Did you just spit it out???” I said.

“No!       Yes.”

“Vicki!”

I’m sorry! I just can’t stand the taste of yeast.”

Now that my nose has cleared up, I have to agree with poor Vicki. It is a bit yeasty. In fact, it’s not delicious at all. Vicki, who makes challah with her kids every week at the Jewish nursery school where she works, suggested I put the yeast in the warm water first to let it rise a bit before adding it to the flour. But what do you think?

Do you bake bread? Can you give me some tips? You can find the recipe here.

Actually, you know what? I’ll just put the recipe, from Learning to Live the Simple Life, right here for you. Thoughts?

The recipe I used is from my Betty Crocker’s cookbook.

Prep: 25 minutes; Proof: 3 Hours; Bake: 30 minutes; Makes 2 loaves, 12 slices each

3 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose or bread flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 package regular or quick active dry yeast

1 cup very warm water (120 – 130 degrees)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cornmeal

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon cold water

Instructions:

1. Mix 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl. Add warm water and oil. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minutes; scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scarping bowl frequently. Stir in remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle (dough will be soft). Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

2. Place dough in greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until double. (Rising time is longer than times for traditional breads, which gives the typical French bread texture). Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched

3. Grease large cookie sheet with shortening; sprinkle with cornmeal

4. Punch dough dough and divide in half. Roll each half into rectangle, 15×8 inches, on lightly floured surface. Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side, to form a loaf. Pinch edge of dough into roll and seal. Roll gently back and forth to taper ends. Place both loaves on cookie sheet.

5. Cut 1/4-inch-deep slashes across loaves at 2-inch intervals with sharp knife. Brush loaves with cold water. Let rise uncovered in warm place about 1 hour or until double.

6. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix egg white and 1 tablespoon cold water; brush over loaves. Sprinkle poppy or sesame seed.

7. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Comments welcome! I want to get better at this. After all, I have three more pounds of flour to use…

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The Week of Eating in: What to eat? February 22, 2010

So when we last chatted, I was telling you about all the random food stuffs I have lurking in my cabinets. I want to use a lot of that stuff this week, so I tried finding recipes that do use as much of them as possible. I also didn’t want to bring in a bunch of new random stuff in order to make my recipes. You see, I’m hoping I can save money this week  by cooking. But every time I cook, I seem to spend $60 and upwards at Whole Foods. “How do people save money by cooking?” I ask myself. Scott is always telling me that cooking is cheaper, yet this doesn’t make sense to me. And then I end up with stuff like five pounds of flour and wasabi powder in my cabinet.

So I started with the idea to make use of Vicki’s wok, the sesame oil, and the soy sauce, and make stir-fry. Epicurious, along with their iPhone app, is my absolute favorite place for finding recipes. As I looked at five different variations on stir fry, I thought occurred to me. Saving money on cooking: I was doing it wrong!

Of course grocery shopping for ingredients always seemed to be expensive! It’s because I pick a recipe and follow it to a tee. I buy a whole bottle of mustard powder and a tin of wasabi so that I can do exactly what the recipe says. For someone who fancies themself as creative, this is a sad state of affairs. I need to use what I have instead of rushing out to get a bunch of random stuff. Maybe this is appropriate for a gourmand cook, but for a dilettante like me, it just won’t do. Especially since – let’s be honest – I haven’t developed a superfine palette that even knows the difference.

So when I saw things like a tablespoon of orange zest and peanut oil in some recipes, but not in others, I decided to just not use them. I found that there were a few things running through all variations on stir-fry: sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and some vegetables and a protein. Simple enough. And I could throw in things that I already had: honey for a meat marinade, garlic, green beans, sea salt, and vegetable oil. Finally, I wrote down a list of possible vegetables and meat in preparation for the farmers market.

Hmm, what to do with the flour? I didn’t want to spend my week baking cake and cookies. It’s not a good use of my precious time, and that’s a lot of sugar for Vicki and I to eat. So how about bread? I found a recipe for french bread at a blog I follow, Learning to Live a Simple Life. I had everything I needed except yeast and cornmeal.

Finally, I wrote down everything I needed for this quinoa recipe, replacing pumpkin seeds with blanched almonds that I already had. I just had to buy quinoa (which I love) dried cranberries (ditto), lemons (which I plan to use in my water as well -lemon juice is a good breath freshener) and parsley (this stuff lasts surprisingly long in my fridge’s crisper and can be used in almost any recipe, I’ve found.)

Armed with all of this, I set out for the Union Square Farmers Market. It was a gorgeous day, with a blue sky hinting at an approaching spring. The crowds were out in force, and the sellers were ready for them, with dried flowers, cookies and muffins, bison, duck, and goose, wine – it was all enticing. But I kept my eye on the prize. I started from one and and did a circuit first, looking at the prices and offerings before getting down to shopping. Eggs, milk, chicken (gotta use those bread crumbs), onions, potatoes, apples, and yogurt all found their way into my shopping bags. I even discovered a stand selling tiny tubers that the sign said were similar to watercress. Perfect, I could use them in my stir-fry!

At the mushroom stand, I quizzed a the seller about the best one to use in stir-fry. The woman to my left recommended criminis while the Asian guy to my right said shitakes would do best. Obviously I’ll listen to the Asian. He even told me how to cut them. You just don’t get that kind of help at the grocery store.

Julia Childs, in her book My Life in France, learned a lot about French cooking just by developing relationships with her local market sellers. She would ask them about what to do with game birds, and what they recommended for treatment of vegetables. I’ll follow her lead.

After I had gotten everything I could at the Farmers Market, I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home for parsley, kombucha tea, lemons, quinoa, yeast, ginger, and cornmeal. Now I’m ready for the week to begin.

 

A week of eating in: The preparation February 20, 2010

Filed under: experiment,Food — Alden @ 5:03 am
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve signed up for HuffPo’s Week of Eating In: the challenge to not buy any of your food out for one week. It’s based around the release of the book The Art of Eating In by Cathy Erway. She ate in for a whole year, no restaurants or fast food or anything! Poor thing, her boyfriend left her over it. But anyway, I’m only doing it for a week, so I’m not worried about Scott disappearing.

It’s a tall order. I would like to think myself fairly progressive in the cook-your-own-food and f***-frozen movement. I look around me and I see a roommate (as much as I love her) who tried and failed to boil eggs, coworkers who buy lunch every single day, and even a mother who says she’s never ever made stock. I’ve made stock. It sucked, but at least I made it.

But making all of my meals for a week? Whew. That’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. That means no frozen meals, no cold cereal, and no cookies. That means no buying lunch from the cafeteria at work, no going out to dinner, no stopping at Whole Foods for a box from the hot bar. That means WORK. It takes planning and creativity and the energy to cook at 8 at night when I get home from work and I’m wondering whether 2 more hours of sleep or doing this challenge is more important. (Perhaps I’m jumping ahead of myself, but trust me – that moment will come.)

So I’m trying to get ahead of the game. I’m not going out tonight anyway because I’m still recovering from my cold, so I’m going to take this opportunity to do a little preparation.

I read this guide from EcoSalon on farmers market shopping, because tomorrow I will go there with a mission. I won’t just be wandering around like I usually do and cooing at the handmade muffins and maple candy. I will need food, ingredients, essentials, and I will need to know wtf is going on around me.

My first step? Figure out what I have. I was actually pretty surprised. My side of the shelf compared to Vicki’s looks dejected. But my various forays into cooking have left me with a lot random stuff. Just a sample:

Polenta, cocoa, shortening, vanilla, lots of salt, cranberry honey, breadcrumbs, a wide variety of spices including mustard powerd, tartar, wasabi, and cajun seasoning, Stevia sweetener packets, (none of them  used), red wine vinegar, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, sesame oil and soy sauce, light brown and regular sugar, about 5 pounds of flour, (maybe I should try baking bread this week) and frozen green beans.

Bizarre, right? That’s not even the half of it. I wrote everything down with estimates of amounts. My next step: come up with recipes to use this randomness. I’ll keep you posted!